Hot winds whip up wild fires in California valley

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Wild fires sweeping the San Bernardino Valley appear to have caused their first fatality after authorities in California said yesterday they had recovered the body of a 57-year-old man.

As many as 4,000 firefighters were once more deployed across the valley, about 100 miles east of Los Angeles, as hot winds fanned a widespread complex of fires, triggered by lightning a week ago. The dead man was identified as Gerald Guthrie, who was last heard from when he phoned a relative to say he was leaving his 10-acre home.

The governor, Arnold Schwarzenegger, flew over the fires in a helicopter on Saturday. An area of about 110 square miles has already been affected, and 58 homes destroyed.

Fire officials said the worst of the blaze was now in areas of rugged brush, and no communities were under immediate threat.

Other serious fires were reported elsewhere in the state, as well as in Montana and Wyoming.

Among those to have lost property is Cate Baker-Hall, 55, an artist whose home was burned to the ground. Inside were about 100 paintings as well as the just-finished draft of a book she had been writing on the 1960s British rock band, the Zombies. She said was "trying to take the Buddha approach and deal with today".