WASHINGTON, Oct. 23 (UPI) -- U.S. President George Bush Tuesday expressed sympathy for residents of Southern California forced from their homes by raging wildfires.
In an appearance at the National Defense University in Washington, Bush said the whole country is concerned.
"We send our prayers and thoughts with those who've been affected, and we send the help of the federal government as well," Bush said.
Late Monday, Bush issued a federal disaster declaration and Tuesday dispatched Home Security Secretary Michael Chertoff and Federal Emergency Management Administration Director R. David Paulison to California to assess the situation.
More than 500,000 people have been forced to evacuate by fires in San Diego County and the Los Angeles areas that have charred more than 420 square miles. New estimates early Tuesday pegged losses in the San Diego area at approximately 1,000 homes with damage assessments only just beginning.