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Southern California Wildfires Ease, Evacuees Return Home

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Thousands of southern Californians are returning to the homes they abandoned in the face of wildfires earlier this week, but officials warn some areas remain dangerous.

Some residents have already learned if theirs were among the 2,000 houses destroyed by fires that have raged from Los Angeles south to the Mexican border.

The wave of returns Friday has allowed officials in hard-hit San Diego to close a makeshift shelter at the city's Qualcomm sports stadium.

At least 12 people are believed to have died because of the blazes. Among them are three men and one woman whose remains were found near an illegal immigrant camp near the Mexican border.

Twenty four fires have scorched nearly 200,000 hectares. Officials say 14 of the blazes are now under control as temperatures and seasonal, hot, gale-force winds began to subside.

Authorities have confirmed at least one case of arson. Five arrests have been made.

President Bush toured the area Thursday with California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger. Mr. Bush pledged that federal money will be made available to those who lost their homes.

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

 

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