The latest forecasts show the gale-force winds whipping flames across Southern California for the fourth day slackening by early evening, giving aircraft an opening to fight fires that have forced almost a million to evacuate, the AP reports. The news prompted one emergency official to declare: "The worst is behind us," as criticism mounts that lack of sufficient resources allowed the blazes to get out of control.
The Orange County fire chief charged yesterday that firefighters' lives were at risk because of a lack of manpower and aircraft; Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger dismissed the jab as “nonsense,” saying the winds had prevented planes from getting into the air. On the ground, 7,000 firefighters were working, including 2,300 inmates pressed into service from California’s prisons. More evacuations were ordered this morning, as Qualcomm Stadium was said to be sheltering more than 12,000 people.