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Downed Trees Fuel Fears of Fires

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RALEIGH — North Carolina's hurricane-damaged forestsare beginning to dry. As they dry, the danger of forest fires increasesdramatically. State forestry officials say all of the downed trees providetons of potential fuel and create what amounts to a giant tinderbox. Ifweather continues to dry out the wood, they say, it could be an extremelybusy forest fire season.

Bob Slocum with the N.C. Forestry Association surveyed the situationfrom WRAL TV5's Sky 5 helicopter. Says what he sees in the woods is prettyimpressive.

The buildup of flammable substance means the forestry service will haveto be prepared for an extremely busy fire season. Last year, N.C. had5,000 forest fires in what Slocum says was considered a mild year.

Slocum says more equipment is badly needed. In the next few weeks,Slocum says the forestry service will be making a pitch to the StateGeneral Assembly for money to address the problem before the forestsignite.

In the meantime, officials will start cleaning up some of the debris inarea parks. A Louisiana firm plans to start work clearing state parkswithin a week. The Army Corps of Engineers says the entire job should takeabout three months.

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