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U.S. wildfire preparedness raised to highest level

From Reuters - August 10, 2017

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - U.S. fire managers on Thursday raised the nation's wildfire readiness status to its highest level for the first time in two years, as California and several other Western states faced heightened danger from lightning storms.

The National Fire Preparedness Level was elevated one notch from "PL-4" to "PL-5," the top ranking on a five-point scale, recognizing that firefighting resources have been strained to their limits by the large number and scope of blazes in the west.

It also reflects the probability that severe weather conditions conducive to wildfires will continue for at least a few days.

The move allows for emergency assistance to be called upon from the U.S. military and even other countries, according to the National Interagency Fire Center in Boise, Idaho.

"Wildfire activity has escalated in recent days after thunderstorms, many with little or no moisture, moved across parts of California, Oregon, Washington, Idaho and Montana, sparking hundreds of new fires," the fire center said.

The decision to raise the preparedness level was made by a multi-agency group of federal and state fire managers. The readiness status had been posted at PL-4 during most of July and into August before Thursday's move, said fire center spokesman Randy Eardley.

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