Leavitt Signs State-of-Emergency Declaration

Leavitt Signs State-of-Emergency Declaration

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SALT LAKE CITY (AP) -- Gov. Mike Leavitt on Thursday issued a state of emergency declaration that would allow officials to activate the state's emergency operations plan in the event of a wildfire.

The declaration is routine and is signed every 30 days during the summer fire season, said Department of Public Safety spokeswoman Scott Behunin.

Under the Disaster Response and Recovery Act of 1981, state public safety officials can't release emergency response funds to agencies or local governments unless the governor officially declares the emergency.

Behunin said the orders routinely are signed in advance and filed away. If a wildfire blows up, officials need only to get verbal authorization from the governor to activate emergency responses.

The idea is to be prepared for wildfires before they happen, Behunin said.

Sometimes the declarations come as early as May, depending on the potential for fire disaster.

The declaration also is a prerequisite for getting federal firefighting emergency funds, he said. "It really is a formality," he said. "July 10, we'll do it again."

(Copyright 2003 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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