President Bush today declared a state of emergency in Southern California, paving the way for federal aid to help fight the region's wildfires.
The declaration follows a request made Monday by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger for federal assistance.
Firefighters are battling blazes in Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside, San Bernardino, San Diego, Santa Barbara and Ventura counties.
Bush's action authorizes the Department of Homeland Security and the Federal Emergency Management Agency to coordinate all disaster relief efforts. Emergency measures, including direct assistance, will be provided, the White House said this morning.
Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff and FEMA Administrator R. David Paulison are expected to travel to Southern California today.
Speaking at the National Defense University in Washington, Bush expressed concern for those who had lost homes or had been evacuated.
"We extend our prayers and thoughts" to them, he said.
He said Chertoff and Paulison would visit "to listen" and to develop an inventory of supplies that the federal government could provide.