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Firefighters Work to Contain Fire That Has Already Killed Four and Injured One

Southern California firefighters are still struggling to contain a fire that authorities say was set ablaze by an arsonist. NewsHour Correspondent Jeffrey Kaye of KCET, Los Angeles, reports on the California fire that has already claimed the lives of four firefighters.

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  • JIM LEHRER:

    The latest on the California fire. NewsHour correspondent Jeffrey Kaye of KCET-Los Angeles reports from the scene.

     JEFFREY KAYE, Reporter, KCET: This afternoon, even as hot spots flared up, fire crews worked to dig breaks and hold the

    line at the eastern edge of the Esperanza fire in Southern California's San Jacinto Mountains.

    More than 1,700 fire personnel are battling the blaze. Since early yesterday, the massive fire has scorched more than 24,000 acres outside the town of Banning in Riverside County. It's the nation's deadliest wildfire in five years. The flames, fueled by whipping winds, dry conditions, and high temperatures, have killed four firefighters and left a fifth critically injured.

     JEANNE WADE EVANS, Forest Supervisor, San Bernardino: They were engaging in structure protection and fire-fighting activities when they were overrun by flames. The accident investigation is ongoing. Our very deepest condolences go out to the families and friends at this very tragic time.

  • ┬áJEFFREY KAYE:

    Rugged terrain and the unpredictable Santa Ana winds are making the job difficult, according to Captain

    Julie Hutchinson with the Riverside County Fire Department.

     JULIE HUTCHINSON, Captain, Riverside County Fire Department: The winds are blowing very hard, 25-35 miles per hour, with gusts up to 40 and 45 miles an hour. So we have a serious condition out there in a terrain-driven fire. This is wind pushing it through terrain that is perfect for this type of fire, so it's a challenge. We can't control the wind.

  • JEFFREY KAYE:

    Authorities say they believe the fire was deliberately set.

  • JOHN HAWKINS, Chief, Riverside County Fire Department:

    A deliberately set arson fire that leads to the death of anyone constitutes murder.

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