California Wildfire Deemed Arson Case

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Los Angeles—The wildfire that has ravaged Southern California in recent weeks, which has burned 226 square miles of land, destroyed scores of homes, and killed two firefighters was set deliberately, say authorities.

Investigators launched a homicide investigation on Thursday, after forensic evidence gave clues that the fire was an act of arson. Sheriff’s spokesman Steve Whitmore declined to elaborate on that evidence, as the investigation is ongoing. Two firefighters were killed en route to the location when their truck careened off a mountainous road.

Now in its eighth day, the wildfire – one of the largest in the state’s history – has been battled both on the ground and from the air. Helicopters used 1.7 million gallons of water, and airplanes have doused the fire with 670,000 gallons of retardant. Some firefighters have said that they have never seen a fire move as fast as this one.

United States Forest Service Investigators recently gathered in a mostly burned forest to look for clues to the fire’s genesis. They planted colored flags to mark evidence at a site at the bottom of a ravine.

The fire has destroyed 64 homes and injured several people.

Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger toured an area which had been leveled by the blaze, meeting with local families and thanking firefighters for their work. “Even though we are still battling those fires, we are now trying to help get people’s lives rebuilt,” said Schwarzenegger.

Progress in bringing the blaze under control has been steady, with containment estimated at 38 percent on Thursday, up from 28 percent on the previous day. Yet a flare-up occurred overnight in a remote canyon, as winds whipped the fire back up. Eleven homes, with a total of twenty-five residents, were evacuated as a result of the flare-up.

A tribute was held at a makeshift camp for the fallen firefighters. Hundreds of firefighters bowed their heads in a moment of silence just before dawn on Friday to pay respect to the men.

Los Angeles Fire Department officials estimate that the fire will be fully contained by September 15.

 

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