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US Joins Firefighting Efforts in Russia

The United States has joined in efforts to combat weeks of wildfires that have devastated parts of Russia, leaving scores dead and thousands homeless.

In a telephone call on Thursday to Russian President Dmitri Medvedev, U.S. President Barack Obama expressed his condolences and said several federal agencies and the state of California are mobilizing firefighting equipment.  The first deliveries of the $2.5 million in aid that includes water tanks, fire-protective clothing and medical kits arrived in Russia on Friday.

Russia's emergencies ministry said more than 500 fires are continuing to burn across the country.  But the area around Moscow, the capital, has seen the first significant rain in weeks, helping the firefighting efforts and providing some relief from the record heat.

Russian authorities say the fires are on the decline even though a new wildfire has broken out dangerously close to Russia's main nuclear research facility in Sarov, east of Moscow.   Thousands of firefighters were called in from neighboring states to battle the blaze.

Adding to the country's misery is the unprecedented drought that has cost Russia close to a third of its wheat crop.

In Spain, brush fires in the country's northwestern Galicia region has taken the lives of two firefighters.  Arson is believed to be the cause of the blaze as well several fires that have recently broken out in neighboring Portugal.

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

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