updated 3/6/2006 9:06:23 AM ET 2006-03-06T14:06:23

Despite plentiful snow in the state's high country, conditions are ripe for a Colorado wildfire season like the record-drought year of 2002.

"It's sort of like Dr. Jekyll and Mister Hyde. The Dr. Jekyll is in the northern and central mountains, we've got heavy snows and lots of snow pack and things are looking pretty normal," said Jim Maxwell of the U.S. Forest Service.

"The Mr. Hyde is down here, below 8,000 ft, on the Front Range and out on the eastern plains and in southern Colorado where the fuels tend to be as dry as match sticks," Maxwell said.

And like in 2002 there have been strong winds and higher-than-average temperatures. Sixty-five fires have already been reported, including a 10-acre blaze Saturday morning near Castle Rock.

The worst conditions are in the southwest with the snowpack in the San Miguel-Dolores-Animas-San Juan Basin at 48 percent of the 30-year average. The Upper Rio Grande is 43 percent.

"We're very concerned about how water users will cope with the meager runoff projected at many locations across southern Colorado this year," said Allen Green, state conservationist with the federal Natural Resources Conservation Service in Lakewood.

"For most water users across southern Colorado, this year's runoff outlook mirrors that of 2002, one of the worst drought years the state has faced in decades," said Green.

Reservoir storage in the south ranges from 109 percent in the San Miguel-Dolores-Animas-San Juan to well-below average in the Rio Grande and Arkansas basins. The snowpack in the Arkansas basin is 90 percent.

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