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Winds Fuel Deadly Fire; Reward Offered for Arsonist

A fatal wildfire near Palm Springs, Calif., has now become the target of federal arson investigators.

Four U.S. Forest Service crew members died Thursday after flames engulfed them as they were trying to protect a home. A fifth firefighter suffered massive burns and is on life support.

Authorities have determined that the Esperanza Fire was deliberately set by someone who wanted to take advantage of the strong Santa Ana winds that have driven flames over tens of thousands of acres.


The hot Santa Ana winds became stronger and hotter Friday, with gusts shooting through the mountain passes at more than 50 miles an hour. Officials are scrambling to get crews to the blaze, which now stretches more than 15 miles.

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger announced a $100,000 reward for information leading to the arrest of the arsonist. Riverside County is also offering cash to get, as one supervisor put it, "the scum that did this."

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