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Grassfires spread in Oklahoma

Jan. 1, 2006 at 10:22 PM

OKLAHOMA CITY, Jan. 1 (UPI) -- Spreading wildfires in Oklahoma prompted the governor Sunday to ask the White House to declare the state a disaster area.

Firefighters from surrounding states were being dispatched to Oklahoma to help embattled crews, and Gov. Brad Henry said state and local officials were moving now to get resources to front lines without waiting to receive federal money.

"We have wildfires that are raging all across the state," said Henry on CNN, "not just in Oklahoma City but in every county in the state."

Henry blamed most of the fires on "human carelessness," and urged Oklahomans to use extreme caution and common sense in handling fire and flammable materials. He said the combination of high temperatures, low humidity and high winds made for "literally perfect" conditions for fires in his state.

"We are literally at the mercy of the weather," said Henry. "We're going to be fighting these fires for days on end."

Henry said late Sunday he had not spoken directly with President George W. Bush, but he did talk with White House Chief of Staff Andrew Card.

"He promised me that they were going to move as quickly as they could to make an emergency disaster declaration," said Henry.

Weather forecasts also worried officials in Texas as they assess damage from grassfires and prepare for more fires to come.

Like Oklahoma, Texas is under a state of emergency. Texas Gov. Rick Perry asked Bush to declare a disaster, after more than 220 homes were destroyed.

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