Drought provokes wildfire concerns

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Areas in exceptional drought within the continental United States decreased slightly to 4.38 percent of the landmass in the week ending June 18, but the National Drought Mitigation Center warns that high temperatures in the southwest are escalating concerns about fire and range conditions.

In a weekly update of drought conditions, the center climatologist Mark Svoboda says the Four Corners region that includes Arizona, Utah, Colorado and New Mexico "is quickly becoming home to the new epicenter of the 2013 drought."

"Little change is expected in this severity level across the state until we see what benefits the monsoon season may bring them later this month or early in July," he adds.

About 18 percent of southwestern Colorado is in extreme drought; the Black Forest fire, the state's most destructive yet, is now 95 percecednt contained. It killed two and destroyed at least 502 houses while consuming 14,280 acres since its June 11 start, which is belived to be human-caused. The Denver Post reports that the cost of fighting it has risen to $8.5 million.

About 90 percent of New Mexico is in extreme drought or worse, the center also says. It says the possible impacts of extreme drought include major crop or pasture loses and widespread water shortages; the potential impacts of exception drought include widespread crop or pasture loses and shortages of water in reservoir, stream and wells.

Overall, the week that ended June 18 saw moderate drought expand slightly to cover 44.77 percent of the continental United States, the center says, increase from 44.13 percent the week before.

For more:
- go to the National Drought Mitigation Center for updates

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