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Dry Spell Raises Forest Fire Risk for NE China

The northeastern province of Jilin was at high risk of forest fire due to a dry spell, higher temperatures and decreased rainfall this winter, officials said.

The provincial meteorological bureau and forest fire prevention headquarters on Friday issued an orange alert warning for forest fires, the second most critical level after red.

The authorities banned open fires and warned residents to be on alert when using fire in their daily lives.

The province could expect rising temperatures and more strong winds in the next week, said Liu Yuying, deputy director of the provincial meteorological center.

Liu said that the past winter (November-February) had been warmer and drier than normal for the province. The average precipitation since last November was 39.5 millimeters, 36 percent down from a year earlier.

A dry spell was also gripping neighboring Heilongjiang Province, which had seen both rain and snow decrease since last summer. The average precipitation decreased by 40 percent compared with ordinary years.

In January, no snow fell in the forest area. In February, most of the province had no snow at all.

The provincial forestry authorities said the forest fire risk was much higher this year and the period of fire prevention would be prolonged.

Earlier this month, the National Forest Fire Prevention Headquarters warned local governments that the country faced an unprecedented risk of forest fire due to dry weather and large amounts of combustible debris, such as broken branches, that were left by severe winter weather.

(Xinhua News Agency March 9, 2008)

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