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Posted: Wednesday, October 24, 2007 10:00 pm

A merciful easing of the winds fueling Southern California's sprawling wildfires finally gave firefighters a chance to fight back against some blazes Wednesday, and weary residents could take solace in an overriding sign of hope: Just one person has died from the flames.

That contrasts to 22 dead from a fire of similar magnitude four years ago, and while the final toll has yet to be tallied from this week's fires, officials were crediting an automated, reverse 911 calling system that prompted the orderly evacuation of more than half a million people. That was 10 times the number evacuated four years ago.

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