EL CAJON, Calif. – Firefighters contained the biggest and deadliest of Southern California's wildfires Tuesday and turned their attention to mopping up other blazes and heading off mudslides when rains come.
"It's a load off," said Lora Lowes, a spokeswoman for the firefighting effort.
Four other fires had been nearly contained by Tuesday night, officials said.
Firefighters got a morale boost from a visit by President Bush, who surveyed some of the damage done by the blazes that have killed at least 22 people, destroyed about 3,600 homes and burned more than 740,000 acres of brush and timber.
"I think when people realize the scope of these fires, the historic nature of these fires, they'll realize what a superhuman effort you all put in to save lives," Bush told a crowd of about 400 firefighters.
The next danger could be mudslides, because the fire has burned away the trees and bushes that keep soil in place on hillsides. Crews planned to begin reseeding, digging flood-control trenches and bringing in sandbags.
Crews also were moving away from the front lines to hunt for hot spots and possibly bodies that have not been counted.
"They're going area by area, systematically, to the communities that burned," Lowes said.
Bush toured San Diego County's fire areas with Gov. Gray Davis and Gov.-elect Arnold Schwarzenegger (search).
Mike Kobliska, a fire captain who spent 11 days battling the blazes on the front lines, said the president's speech lifted his spirits.
"Not that we needed a pat on the back, but to say it doesn't feel good would be a lie," Kobliska said.
More than 27,000 people were still out of their homes, down from 80,000 at the peak of the fires, said Carl DeWing, a spokesman for the state Office of Emergency Services.
Many firefighters had been sent home as well: There were about 6,600 on the fire lines Tuesday, down from nearly 9,000 the day before.