Wednesday, October 24, 2007

FBI team gathers evidence as part of arson probe into California wildfires

FBI team gathers evidence as part of arson probe into California wildfires

6 hours ago

WASHINGTON - Special FBI teams gathered evidence Wednesday as part of a possible arson investigation into the wildfires devastating Southern California, the agency said.

FBI evidence response teams recovered materials they hoped would identify the source of the fires that have burned for four days. The FBI said a house was not searched, correcting earlier reports from a law enforcement official.

Richard Kolko, an FBI spokesman in Washington, said the evidence response teams "have been working with other federal, state and local authorities" to identify the source of the fires.

The fires have destroyed 1,500 homes and caused at least a half-million people to flee, in what has become the largest evacuation in state history. San Diego County accounted for at least 1,200 damaged homes, and officials believe that number will rise.

Twenty-one firefighters and at least 24 other people have been injured. One person was killed by the flames, and the San Diego medical examiner's officer listed five other deaths as connected to the blazes.

Thousands of people remained in emergency shelters, where many had an agonizing wait to find out whether their homes had survived.

President George W. Bush signed a major disaster declaration for California in the wake of the wildfires that have charred about 1,700 square kilometres.

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****REMINDER**** Every fire has the ability to be catastrophic. The wildland fire management environment has profoundly changed. Growing numbers of communities, across the nation, are experiencing longer fire seasons; more frequent, bigger, and more severe, fires are a real threat. Be careful with all campfires and equipment.

"I am a firm believer in the people. If given the truth, they can be depended upon to meet any national crisis. The great point is to bring them the real facts, and beer." --Abraham Lincoln

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