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California's Fire-Ravaged Area  'Like a War Zone,' says Governor

California wildfires have scorched more than 200,000 hectares and killed at least 15 people. More than 1,100 homes have been lost to the blazes. Californians are looking to Washington for help in rebuilding. At least 10 major fires are raging in the state, blackening the landscape and darkening the skies over huge areas. Monday, President George Bush declared a "major disaster" in California, freeing federal emergency funds for four California counties.

In a news conference Tuesday, Mr. Bush expressed concern for the victims, and promised help for those who are fighting the fires. "The federal government is working closely with the state government to provide resources necessary to help the brave firefighters do their duty," he said.

California governor-elect Arnold Schwarzenegger planned to travel to Washington Tuesday to urge the White House to send the aid quickly.

Monday, the actor-turned-politician toured fire-stricken Simi Valley, northwest of Los Angeles. "I think that the key thing is now to get the federal money and to help those people to rebuild their homes and their businesses, and get their lives back in shape," he said.

The governor-elect praised President Bush for authorizing the aid, and also praised outgoing governor Gray Davis, who will leave office next month. The governor's staff has been briefing Mr. Schwarzenegger daily on the wildfires.

The heaviest loss of life and property has been near San Diego. As Mr. Davis toured the region, he said it was like a war zone.

"My heart goes out to every family that lost a home. Our highest priority is, one, to put the fires out throughout California, and two, to help put people's lives back in order," he said.

Firefighters are hoping that cooler weather that is forecast for later this week will help them make progress against the blazes.