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Oct-29-2007 12:49printcomments

California Fire Victims Will See Assistance, and More Wind

Warmer Temperatures and Light Offshore Winds are returning to Southern California, along with financial assistance.

Weather map
Weather map: Accuweather.com

(SAN DIEGO) - Two U.S. Democratic Legislators are asking the federal government to commit a billion dollars in fiscal year 2008 appropriations legislation to help deal with this year’s catastrophic wildfire season.

While that is good news for the disaster stricken residents of several Southern California counties, fire officials acknowledge that increasing winds could breathe new life into the fires and the threat is not over.

U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein of California and Representative Norm Dicks from Washington, say the funds are needed for emergency fire suppression, risk reduction and recovery needs.

In a letter to the Chairmen and Ranking Members of the Senate and House Appropriations Committees, Feinstein and Dicks noted that so far in 2007, fires have scorched 8.7 million acres across the United States, well above the 10-year average of 5.9 million acres. 480,000 acres have already burned in the Southern California fires alone, causing the largest evacuation in the State’s history.

Weather experts today said an area of low pressure off the California coast will bring light rain to parts of fire-ravaged Southern California. But they also warn of the potential for increasing offshore winds expected this week.

Accurate damage estimates are impossible to determine while several of the fires continue to burn. At this time the Harris Fire is 75% contained, the Poomacha and Santiago Fires are 65% contained, the Slide Fire has reached 90% containment. The fires at Witch Creek and Grass Valley are 95% contained, the Rancho Fire is 87% contained.

AccuWeather.com's Western U.S. Expert Meteorologist Ken Clark, says that over the past several days, cooler temperatures, lighter winds, and some rain allowed fire crews to fully contain a number of the fires in seven Southern California counties.

"However today, warmer temperatures will spread across the region, along with light onshore winds, although the winds will not reach hurricane-strength wind speeds recorded last week."

Beyond the costly damage and casualties resulting from the fires, officials continue to have concerns about air quality throughout San Diego County.

Clark says the active fires are still producing a great deal of smoke, ash, and soot. "Officials are advising residents returning to their homes to lightly mist any hard surfaces before trying to sweep up any dust or ash, and dust masks should be worn during any kind of cleaning or other activity."

Nearly 2,800 buildings have been lost in the wildfires according to California's Office of Emergency Services, 2,000 of those buildings were homes.

Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger announced today that cash grants of up to $10,000 are available to help some individuals who have suffered losses in the Southern California fires. The grants are administered by the California Department of Social Services as a supplemental program to FEMA-administered assistance. They are intended to help fire victims with expenses caused by a direct result of the disaster such as housing, replacing household items, medical costs and transportation.

Fire officials acknowledge that while progress is being made, increasing winds could breathe new life into the fires and the threat is not over.

In the meanwhile, forecasters are watching the weather systems closely, hoping that offshore winds do not increase dramatically.

Fred Daskoski with the state's Department of Forestry told the Associated Press, "We're looking for full control within a week but if we get any of these winds returning, there is a possibility that a couple of spots could have a blowout, and then we'd be off to the races again."




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