One firefighter died and three others were hurt when flames overran their truck near Julian, east of San Diego, as the number of people killed in southern California's vast wildfires rose to 20. The historic gold-mine town has been the focus of an intensive protection effort, as blazes rage to the north and south. Fires also continued to menace the resort communities of Lake Arrowhead and Big Bear Lake, east of Los Angeles.

Wind-driven blazes erupted south of Denver and northwest of Boulder, Colo., Wednesday, prompting the evacuation of 3,300 homes. Flames 100 feet high briefly forced defenders away from Jamestown, a historic mining village, but didn't consume it. Residents were being allowed to return home Thursday as rain and sleet aided fire-control efforts.

Senate Republicans fell six votes shy of the 60 needed to break a Democratic filibuster of Mississippi judge Charles Pickering, President Bush's nominee to a federal appeals court in New Orleans. Charles Schumer (D) of New York, said Pickering's "at best mixed" record on racial issues and "insensitivity" in a cross-burning case in particular make him unqualified for the promotion. Trent Lott (R) of Mississippi defended Pickering as "one of the best judges I've known." Democrats also hinted the vote was timed with an eye toward next week's gubernatorial election in Mississippi, in which incumbent Ronnie Musgrove (D) faces GOP challenger Haley Barbour.

The economy grew at a rapid 7.2 percent pace in the third quarter, the Commerce Department reported. The increase in gross domestic product, the broadest snapshot of economic performance, was the fastest since 1984, and even higher than economists anticipated.

A standoff at a maximum-security prison in Bishopville, S.C., ended peacefully after about five hours Wednesday night. Five inmates who staged the uprising, seizing two guards hostage, released them after authorities agreed to permit access to a television news reporter. Corrections officials promised to investigate the inmates' claims that guards beat them while shackled.

Four Miami police officers convicted in a corruption scandal received federal prison sentences ranging from 13 months to more than three years Wednesday. Jesse Aguero, who drew the longest term, Art Beguiristain, Oscar Ronda, and Jorge Castello were found guilty in April of planting guns on suspects after questionable police shootings or lying to cover them up. All four plan to appeal.

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