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Death Toll Rises, But Worst May be Over With CA Fires

By: Associated Press
By: Associated Press

SAN DIEGO -- Firefighters are making their first major progress against Southern California's firestorm Thursday. But that news comes as authorities make some grim discoveries.

The San Diego County sheriff says crews have found two burned bodies in a gutted home near Poway, north of San Diego. The discovery brings to eight the total number of deaths believed to be connected to the fires.

Meanwhile, a break in the harsh Santa Ana winds has allowed a massive aerial assault on the fires. And sea breezes are cooling what had been record-high temperatures in recent days.

But, while that's all helping, flames continue to threaten thousands of homes. Firefighters cut fire lines around four major blazes in San Diego County, but none is more than 40% contained.

Evacuation shelters have been emptying Thursday as some Southern California residents return to their neighborhoods. But at the same time, the wildfires continue to force new evacuations.

After housing as many as 10,000 people at the height, San Diego's Qualcomm Stadium had about 2,500 left Thursday morning. Many, though, have returned to find nothing more than ruins. Officials say nearly 1,500 homes have been destroyed.

Cheryl Monticello returned to her neighborhood in Rancho Bernardo, despite being warned by city officials that her house was lost. Only the white brick chimney and her daughter's backyard slide had survived, but Monicello said, "you have to see it to know for sure."

The San Diego County Sheriff reports two people were arrested for looting.

None of the four major fires burning in San Diego County is more than 40% contained and more than 8,500 homes are still threatened. And authorities evacuated Jamul, a community of about 6,000 in a hilly region about east of San Diego.


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