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Wildfires in Southern California Kill 4 Firefighters


President Bush has expressed his condolences to the family and friends of four firefighters killed Thursday in a California wildfire.

The four died in what authorities in the western U.S. state say is a blaze that was deliberately set. Emergency workers are still struggling to contain the fire.

A presidential spokesman said Mr. Bush placed a call to the U.S. Forest Service Friday to express condolences not only to the families of the four firemen killed, but to the entire firefighting force, and to the family of another firefighter who was critically injured tackling the blaze. The spokesman expressed the president's hope that whoever started the fire will be found quickly and brought to justice.

The fire broke out Thursday morning in an area northwest of the resort town of Palm Springs. Several hundred people were forced to evacuate their homes. Officials are offering a $100,000 reward to catch the suspected arsonist.

Five firefighters with the U.S. Forest Service were working to protect a home in a remote area when they were suddenly overtaken by a wall of fire when the winds shifted Thursday. Three of the firefighters were killed at the scene, while a fourth died hours later. The fifth firefighter is on life support today with burns over 95 percent of his body.

Authorities say five percent of the blaze has been contained. More than 9,700 hectares have been consumed, while at least 10 homes have been destroyed.

Some information for this report was provided by AP and Reuters.

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