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1. WILDFIRES:

For much of U.S., fire hazard lingers as drought persists

An unusually late fire season may bring coal to more than a few Christmases this year. Ongoing drought conditions across much of the West, Midwest and South have left ample fuel for ignition, keeping firefighters on edge and raising alerts in a number of states. The year appears poised to claim third place in the annals of worst fire seasons on record, following burns totaling 9.8 million acres in 2006 and 9.3 million acres in 2007.

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