Firefighters Make Progress in CA Fires

July 14, 2008 12:00:00 AM PDT
Firefighters in northern California have gained the upper hand in the wildfire burning in Butte County. People in the towns of Paradise and Concow are returning to what's left of their homes. Cooler weather helped firefighters cut down the fire and make the area safe for people to get home.

They're also getting help from the federal government. Three Marine helicopters have been helping to put out the Butte County Fire.

80% percent of the country's federal wildlife resources are now being used in California. Governor Schwarzenegger explained the situation on "this week with George Stephanopoulos," saying, "Because of very dry weather, a lot of wind, tremendous heat, all of this is kind of the perfect storm for these kind of fires. So, of course, we prepared to fight 30 or 40 fires, which we've done successfully in the past, but not 1,700 fires."

There are still almost 300 fires burning in California. To the south, state authorities reopened Highway 1 near Big Sur. It was closed during the recent wildfire. But now tourists can finally get to the resorts and restaurants in the area.

Big Sur businesses like the River Inn had been closed for three weeks because of the Basin Complex Fire. But now, all evacuations near Big Sur are lifted.

The fire is now 61% percent contained. 26 homes were destroyed.

Governor Schwarzenegger has ordered 2,000 more National Guard troops to train at firefighting. They'll join 400 guard members who are already on the fire lines and many of them only recently got back from fighting in a war zone.

Firefighters said the guardsmen are perfect for battling the wildfires because they work as teams and they're disciplined. Many of them said their first assignments back home are just what they had in mind.

"This is what I came for, to get some action," said Private John Munoz with the National Guard.

"Over there you are fighting for lives, here you are fighting for beautiful homes and redwoods," said Sergeant Robert Rosbia with the National Guard.

The federal government has now spent $100-million dollars to fight the fires in California.


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