Federal aid will soon be pouring into Southern California: President Bush today declared a state of emergency for the fire-scorched region. Wildfires ripping across seven counties have forced half a million people to evacuate. “We extend our prayers and our thoughts” to them, Bush said. Homeland Security chief Michael Chertoff and FEMA officials will head to California today, the LA Times reports.
Arnold Schwarzenegger meanwhile begged neighboring states for assistance. Some 5,000 firefighters are already at work, Bloomberg reports, but constantly shifting winds make progress difficult. The AP reports more than 1,200 buildings have burned. In San Diego, many fear damage will eclipse the $1 billion wrought by 2003’s fires. “We've never seen anything like this,” the mayor said.