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Federal Hiring Freeze Creates Uncertainty for Forest Service Firefighters

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An Arizona senator wants to clarify whether President Trump’s recent federal hiring freeze extends to seasonal wildland firefighters. Republican Jeff Flake is concerned the U.S. Forest Service won’t have the necessary personnel this year. Arizona Public Radio’s Ryan Heinsius reports.

In a letter to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Sen. Flake said fires pose a significant risk to Arizona’s environment, water supply and economy. He said any action that could compromise the ability to fight wildfires is unacceptable. 

Four other members of Arizona's congressional delegation sent a separate letter Wednesday about the hiring freeze. Democrats Tom O'Halleran and Kyrsten Sinema along with Republicans Andy Biggs and Trent Franks told the U.S. Office of Personnel Management that "an inability to hire seasonal firefighters to combat wildfires would seriously threaten public safety."

Guidelines released this week by the new administration allow for some seasonal workers under the hiring freeze, but the language isn’t specific. Officials with the Forest Service are currently reviewing the guidelines to better understand how the freeze might affect seasonal firefighters.

The Forest Service typically employs close to 10,000 seasonal fire personnel each year.

Ryan joined KNAU's newsroom in 2013. He covers a broad range of stories from local, state and tribal politics to education, economy, energy and public lands issues, and frequently interviews internationally known and regional musicians. Ryan is an Edward R. Murrow Award winner and a frequent contributor to NPR.
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