Fires Continue For Fourth Day In California But Relief In Sight - KLTV.com - Tyler, Longview, Jacksonville |ETX News

10/24/07-Southern California

Fires Continue For Fourth Day In California But Relief In Sight

   FBI agents are investigating possible arson leads into one of the wildfires devastating that area.

   Meanwhile, Southern California has officially been declared a major federal disaster by the President.  Only four of the 16 wildfires are contained, but for the first time, Southern Californians have some relief in sight. 

   The relief comes from a break in the weather conditions that have allowed the flames to thrive. The Santa Ana winds have died down. 

   "We are very grateful to mother nature and to our fire fighters and first responders," says Zev Yaroslavsky, LA County Supervisor.

   Specialized C-130s are on loan from the military. The cargo planes can drop three thousand gallons of water across a quarter of a mile.

   "Those helicopters are circling to see if the water will drop. If a spot fire occurs they're going to drop on that," says one firefighter.

   The fires have triggered the biggest evacuation in California's history: almost a million people forced out of their homes. Some went to shelters, many just with the clothes on their backs. "What's frustrating to me is that we are not able to deal with it and we are putting not only property and citizen life at risk, but we are putting firefighters at risk," says Assemblyman Todd Spitzer, Republican for Orange County.

   At Qualcomm Stadium in San Diego, the national guard delivered thousands of cots.  Along with the evacuees, volunteers are pouring in. The Del Mar race track has also become home to evacuees and their pets who can only wait.

Evacuee, Jerry Boettcher, knows that feeling, "Waiting and wondering mostly, what's going to happen next."

The destruction is overwhelming: almost two thousand homes destroyed, spanning the size of New York City twice and totaling an estimated one billion dollars in San Diego county alone.

President Bush will tour the devastation in Southern California Thursday.

Tracy Watler, Reporting: tracy@kltv.com

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