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Colorado Calls Drought Emergency as Wildfires Multiply Rapidly

April 24, 2002|From Associated Press

DENVER — Gov. Bill Owens on Tuesday asked the federal government to declare a drought emergency in Colorado, saying some areas are facing the driest conditions in a century.

He also released $450,000 in emergency funds to place 80 firefighters on duty six weeks early and keep three tanker planes and 25 prisoners who are trained to fight wildfires on standby.

"This is a statewide emergency that requires a statewide response," Owens said.

There have been 283 fires that have charred 7,600 acres in a wildfire season that began two months early this year. In 2000, the worst fire season in 50 years, there were 54 fires that burned 2,700 acres this early in the season.

Since October, precipitation has been below normal across much of the West except for northern California and the Pacific Northwest.

Last month, Agriculture Secretary Ann M. Veneman designated Montana a drought disaster area, giving farmers eight months to apply for low-interest emergency loans from the Farm Service Agency.

Arizona Gov. Jane Dee Hull has asked the government for drought relief assistance.

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