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Wildfires Wane as Bush Visits California

President Bush and California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger talk to firefighters at Kit Carson Park in Escondido, a command post for San Diego County.
President Bush and California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger talk to firefighters at Kit Carson Park in Escondido, a command post for San Diego County. (Pool Photo By K.c. Alfred Via Associated Press)

So how do they keep going?

"M&Ms," Goss said, laughing. "For me, anyway."

As firefighters battled the blazes, police stepped up their investigation into the possibility that some of the fires in the Los Angeles area were intentionally set, offering rewards for information that leads to the arrest of any arson suspects.

In Los Angeles, police arrested a man after witnesses reported seeing him light a fire on a hillside in the San Fernando Valley on Wednesday and then walk away. Police identified the man as Catalino Pineda, 41, a native of Guatemala who is on probation for making false emergency reports.

In Orange County, Fire Chief Chip Prather told reporters that investigators have pinpointed arson as the cause of a blaze known as the Santiago fire. As of Thursday, the fire had destroyed 22 homes and other buildings and injured four firefighters, California fire officials said.

Prather said the state government, the FBI and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives have each pledged $50,000 in reward money.

The San Diego County Sheriff's Department, meanwhile, reported the arrest of two people, one of them a juvenile, on charges of starting a brush fire in Vista, a town north of San Diego, on Tuesday. The fire they allegedly started was quickly put out.

Sheriff's deputies also arrested two people near the border town of Tecate for allegedly looting a fire-damaged home. U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents helped track the pair as they headed toward Mexico, and a large bag full of looted property was recovered, the sheriff's department said.

Branigin reported from Washington. Staff writers Spencer S. Hsu in Escondido and Karl Vick in Riverside contributed to this report.


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