- Associated Press - Saturday, March 11, 2017

AUSTIN, Texas (AP) - Gov. Greg Abbott has declared six Texas Panhandle counties disaster areas following deadly wildfires.

Abbott issued the proclamation Saturday to help clear the way for government assistance in Gray, Hemphill, Lipscomb, Ochiltree (AH-k’l-tree), Roberts and Wheeler counties.

A statement from Abbott says Texas officials have asked the U.S. Department of Agriculture for a disaster designation to activate the agency’s emergency loan program. The funds would be used to help eligible farmers and ranchers rebuild and recover from losses sustained by the wildfires.

Officials say wildfires killed four people and burned an estimated 750 square miles in Texas, displacing about 10,000 cattle and horses.

Abbott on Thursday suspended some permit requirements and transportation restrictions so hay for livestock could more quickly reach ranches.

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