California Fire Tornadoes Spread Flames

California wildfires consumed even more territory in the last 24 hours, at times erupting in devastating fire tornadoes, but for the first time in a week of losing ground to the flames firefighters today expressed optimism that their efforts were having an effect.

The eight wildfires expanded by a total of 16,000 acres over the last 24 hours. Some 3,600 firefighters are battling the largest fire, which has consumed 190 square miles of brush -- an area about the size of Tuscon, Ariz.

Inside The Inferno
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Firefighters are working fast to build 50 miles of line that would defend the the historic Mt. Wilson observatory and communication towers in the Angeles Angeles National Forest just north of Los Angeles.

California has burned through nearly two-thirds of its emergency firefighting money early in the season. Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and other authorities called for more emergency funds Tuesday.

"If we were to deal with two or three more major incidents in the state of California, fires, floods, natural disasters or man-made disasters -- there's not enough depth of resources," said Lou Paulson, president of California Professional Firefighters.

Nearly 6,000 firefighters are digging in for a sustained battle with the eight fires still roaring in Southern California.

VIDEO: Firefighters try to beat back the flames threatening thousands of homes.
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Homeowner David Shapero stayed up all night watching the hills.

"Last night it was really bad…flames shooting over the ridge," he said.

Click here for the latest map tracking California's wildfires.

"I'm feeling a lot more optimistic today than I did yesterday and the crews are doing fabulous work out there on the grounds, but the bottom line is that they're fighting for every foot," U.S. Forest Service Capt. Mike Dietrich told The Associated Press.

Dietrich downgraded the fire as no longer "angry," but "cranky."

He was referring to the massive Station Fire that has been raging through the Angeles National Forest. The flames are just miles from the city's edge and firefighters are battling to save the observatory and transmission towers on Mount Wilson, located in the forest.

Dietrich said reinforcements and foam retardant has improved the chances of keeping the flames off of the Mount Wilson facilities.

"The fire is still likely to impact the area around Mount Wilson, but we have no way to know the predicted damage," he said.

Although the Station Fire continued to spread, Dietrich said the containment figure was expected to rise substantially from the current 5 percent. He noted that bulldozers had carved up to 12 miles of lines and no new structures were lost overnight.

Some 3,600 firefighters and aircraft were working across a 50-mile span to battle the blaze.

The fires have scorched more than 100,000 acres, destroyed at least 70 structures and taken the lives of two firefighters so far.

The wildfires have been so intense they have triggered multiple fire tornadoes sending flames 100 feet in the air.

The fire tornadoes, also known as fire whirls, are caused by hot, rising columns of air that pull the flames skyward. According to a study by the National Institute of Standards and Technology, fire tornadoes are a "rare but potentially catastrophic form of fire."

California Wildfires Still Burning Strong

In La Crescenta, Calif., where fires haven't burned in 60 years, firefighters started "controlled burns" -- organized fires sparked by the firefighters to clear land before the wildfires had a chance to move in.

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