President Bush today dramatically ramped up federal aid for California's wildfire victims. He will inspect the damage personally Thursday. NASA images from space show just how enormous the fires have become -- more than 400,000 acres burned -- more than half a million people, evacuated and so many fires still raging. After a closed-door cabinet briefing, Bush signed a major disaster declaration. Bush said, "I want the people in southern California to know that Americans all across this land care deeply about them." The declaration frees up federal funding for temporary housing and low cost loans for individuals. State and local governments will also be able to apply for assistance. The immediate focus is on getting the fires under control -- the federal government has deployed fire fighters and planes. Navy helicopters are helping in the fight. The Navy has also set up a tent city in San Diego for thousands of military evacuees. FEMA has been shipping in basic supplies: food, water and cots. They say they have many more supplies than needed. FEMA's Glenn Cannon said, "At FEMA today we don't wait any longer, we begin moving assets the minute, we think they may be needed." Comparisons with the Hurricane Katrina response are unavoidable -- FEMA Director David Paulison says FEMA has changed. Paulison said, "We've been working hard to rebuild this organization, but rebuild the entire response system that we have in this country and this shows what can happen if we do it right." The president heads to San Diego Thursday. A White House spokesperson says, like FEMA, the president learned from Hurricane Katrina. This time he is working more quickly and closely with local officials.
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