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Third day of California fires

Harsh winds, unstable thermal conditions and strained firefighting resources left firefighters in Southern California conceding defeat Tuesday to the blazes that continue to rage on.
The fires have displaced more than 500,000 people in the area, which continues to experience harsh Santa Ana winds that aren’t expected to subside for at least another day.
On Tuesday, more than 400 square miles in 7 counties had been overtaken by some 16 fires, with their flames driven by high desert winds and hot temperatures that overwhelmingly resisted air attacks, garden hoses and fire retardant.
On Tuesday night, the Los Angeles Times reported 429, 862 acres burned, 1,235 homes destroyed and 1,682 structures (including homes) destroyed. This is the biggest evacuation in California history.
The fires, blazing from the Simi Valley north of Los Angeles to the Mexican border, caused two deaths, and possibly four others, related to evacuation in San Diego County, authorities said. At least 25 firefighters and civilians were reported to have suffered burns.
In San Diego County, authorities placed evacuation calls to 346,000 homes, according to Luis Monteagudo, a spokesman for the county’s emergency effort. The county estimates, based on census data, that about 513,000 people were told to leave.
The Los Angeles Times said the damage is likely to reach at least $500 million in insured losses, according to the Insurance Information Network of California.
Weather conditions only grew worse on Tuesday, with temperatures across Southern California about 10 degrees above average. Temperatures were in the 90s by mid-afternoon and wind gusts up to 60 mpg were expected in mountains and canyons.
The Los Angeles Times: “Officials said containment was days away at the earliest.?
President Bush, who planned to visit the area Thursday, declared a federal emergency for seven counties in a move that will speed disaster-relief efforts.
The Associated Press said the massive devastation brought to mind the blazes that ripped through Southern California in 2003, killing 22 and destroying 3,640 homes. But San Diego’s Union Tribune reports that the current winds are “far more powerful than the Santa Anas that fueled the historic Cedar and Paradise fires of 2003.?

The Associated Press:

The Los Angeles Times:

(San Diego) Union Tribune: