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Bush Extends Relief To Fire-Afflicted California - 2003-10-28


President Bush has extended federal disaster aid to parts of southern California that have been engulfed by deadly wildfires.

Speaking at the White House Monday, Mr. Bush declared the counties of Los Angeles, San Bernardino, San Diego and Ventura major disaster areas, making them eligible for federal compensation aid. He described the wildfires as dangerous and devastating and pledged that his administration is prepared to help victims in any way it can.

The fires -- raging from just north of Los Angeles to the Mexican border --have killed at least 14 people, destroyed more than 1,000 homes and scorched some 160,000 hectares of land.

State officials say the fires, which began last week, still threaten tens of thousands of homes around Los Angeles.

Thousands fled their homes as firefighters continued to fight the blazes amid high winds and temperatures and dry conditions.

Meanwhile, officials are searching for two people who may have intentionally started one of the blazes in San Bernardino county. The pair could be charged with murder for the deaths of two people in that county.

The sources of the other fires are also under investigation.

Information for this report is provided by AP, AFP and Reuters.

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