To the federal government, an emergency is not a disaster, and the difference between the two is huge for homeowners.
President Bush's declaration Tuesday that Southern California is in a state of emergency frees up federal dollars to help the state pay for emergency workers and efforts to protect life, health and property, according to the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
But it does not mean that the government will provide financial assistance to individuals who have lost possessions in the fires.
Bush would have to declare a major disaster -- which he may do -- for the federal government to offer financial assistance to individuals, the agency said.
For more information, contact FEMA at (800) 621-FEMA (3362) or www.fema.gov/ assistance/index.shtm.