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Firefighters battle fierce California wildfires

Raging southern California wildfires showed no signs of abating early yesterday, injuring three people and prompting evacuation of 4,000 homes a day after Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger declared a state of emergency.
The blazes, including some just a few miles north of sprawling Los Angeles, were still "out of control," according to fire officials, and by mid-afternoon had engulfed over 19,770 acres (8,000 hectares) of vegetation.
The flames, being fought by over 1,800 firefighters and fire planes dropping their loads of water, also threatened 10,000 other individual homes and nearly 2,500 other structures.
A thick plume of smoke had settled over Los Angeles.
Describing the fires' potential for spreading as "extreme," the US Forest Service said the blazes were being helped by high temperatures that are set to continue throughout the region for several days.
Only five percent of them were formally "under control," the authorities acknowledged.
The San Gabriel Valley east of Los Angeles has experienced record heat and low humidity, with temperatures soaring above 100 degrees Fahrenheit (38 degrees Celsius) in the hottest locations, the National Weather Service said in its red flag warning for the region.
Schwarzenegger declared states of emergency in Los Angeles and Monterey counties on Friday in response to the wildfires.
A key factor in the fires' spread is that the areas most at risk are covered with vegetation that has not experienced fire for some four decades, making it even more susceptible to the blaze.
Wildfires have also scorched the northern portion of the state. Deputy Governor John Caramendi reported a major fire had broken out around Big Meadow, a region 236 miles (380 kilometers) east of San Francisco.
California is frequently hit by wildfires and in 2007 suffered the worst blazes in its history, which forced the evacuation of 640,000 residents and destroyed around 2,000 homes in southern California.