Republican Sen. Jeff Flake wants seasonal fire crews that work for the Bureau of Land Management to be exempt from the recent federal hiring freeze. The U.S. Department of the Interior hasn’t confirmed yet whether President Trump’s freeze will affect those firefighters. Arizona Public Radio’s Ryan Heinsius reports.
In a letter to the Interior Department, Sen. Flake requested verification that wildland firefighters won’t be cut for the upcoming fire season.
"Without being able to hire the employees we need – to move them around the country to where the fires are – then we’d be in trouble. It’s difficult enough to fight these fires when you’re fully staffed. When you’re understaffed it’s very difficult," Flake says.
Flake says if the BLM’s ability to fight fires is compromised, it could threaten Arizona’s watershed, economy and private property.
The BLM manages more than 12 million acres in Arizona.
Interior officials are currently trying to secure waivers for seasonal firefighters. The White House has exempted some temporary jobs related to public safety and national security.