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Homeland Security

American Forces Press Service

Bush: California Wildfires Constitute Major Disaster

By Gerry J. Gilmore
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Oct. 24, 2007 – Destruction caused by wildfires now raging across southern California constitutes a major disaster requiring additional federal assistance, President Bush declared today after meeting with his most-senior advisors at the White House.

The federal government was mobilized early on to assist beleaguered “Golden State” residents, as state National Guard, Department of Homeland Security, Federal Emergency Management Agency and active-duty military assets have flowed in to help battle the flames and assist displaced residents.

“Today, I’ve just signed a major disaster declaration, which will then enable federal funds to start heading toward the families who have been affected by these fires,” Bush told reporters after meeting with members of his Cabinet.

Hundreds of thousands of Californians have abandoned their homes over the past few days as part of widespread evacuations caused by almost uncontrollable wildfires that have been spread by near-100 mph winds.

Yesterday, the president declared seven Southern California counties disaster areas, as more than 270,000 acres have burned. More than 1,300 homes along the Pacific Coast corridor between Los Angeles and San Diego have been consumed by flames.

“All of us across this nation are concerned for the families who have lost their homes and the many families who have been evacuated from their homes,” Bush said yesterday during a speech at the National Defense University here. “We send our prayers and thoughts with those who've been affected, and we send the help of the federal government, as well.”

Bush said he asked Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger earlier today if Californians are getting the help they need from federal agencies.

“His answer was, ‘Yes,’” Bush said. “I assured him that if he needs anything and we’re able to provide it, we’ll do so.”

Tomorrow, Bush is going to California to get a first-hand look at the situation.

“I will continue to make sure that our efforts are coordinated and that we are responsive to the needs of people,” Bush said. “But, most importantly, I want the people in southern California to know that Americans all across this land care deeply about them.”

Californians should know “the federal government will do everything we can to help put out these fires,” Bush said.

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