Huge Calif. Wildfire Almost Fully Contained

Huge Calif. Wildfire Almost Fully Contained

30 October 2006

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Beaument, Calif. — Firefighters were confident Monday that they would have a huge, intentionally set wildfire in Southern California fully contained by nightfall.

A state forestry spokesman said “the weather has shifted in a very, very favorable way.” Since the weekend, winds have died down and the temperatures have fallen in the fire zone, but the blaze still threatened a neighboring, largely dead forest.

The fire that started Thursday and blackened about 63 square miles was 90 percent contained Monday afternoon.

Four firefighters were killed when the flames overtook them, and a fifth, Pablo Cerda, remains in critical condition with burns over most of his body. Dozens of Cerda’s relatives have been at the hospital, praying for him.

Thirty-four homes and 20 other buildings have been destroyed in the Esperanza fire, which is the deadliest U.S. wildfire since a July 2001 fire in Washington state.

Meanwhile, the Riverside County Sheriff’s Office has received more than 225 tips on the arson investigation connected to the fire. In addition, more federal agents have joined the investigation.

Authorities aren’t disclosing what evidence they have in the case. Some local residents have said that they saw two men leaving the area where the fire started Thursday morning.

The reward for information leading to the arsonist’s capture was still at $500,000 on Monday.

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