Calmer winds help in fight against California wildfires

by Stephanie Stanton
NBC News

President Bush got his first look at the devastation caused by wildfires raging in southern California on Thursday.

The fierce winds are gone but the smoke, flames and the destruction are all still there after five days of a raging inferno that raced over hundreds of thousands of acres of southern California.

"It's important for me to come out here and see first-hand the situation.  And there's no question people are suffering," said President Bush.

Meanwhile authorities discovered two bodies in a burned out house in the town of Poway, bringing the number of people killed by the fires to three.

More than 400-thousand acres have been burned.

Weary firefighters continue to battle the flames for a fifth straight day.

Many of the half-million evacuees have started to return home not knowing what they'll find.

Some 16-hundred southern California homes were destroyed by the firestorm.

Many homeowners are hoping to rebuild.

Property damage estimates in San Diego County alone are expected to top one billion dollars.

The good news is the Santa Ana winds are gone...allowing crews to gain the upper hand.

Still, the real impact for many people here is only beginning as they get their first look at what the fire left behind.

Another big concern now is air quality.

Officials are telling everyone to be careful outside until the smoke clears.