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Firefighters exempt from freeze

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The acting deputy secretary of the U.S. Department of Agriculture on Friday, Feb. 3, exempted several positions, including firefighting and law enforcement posts, from the presidential-imposed federal hiring freeze.

The positions also include rapid response and food inspection services.

U.S. Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, R-5th District, Rep. Dan Newhouse, R-4th District, and several other members of Congress had asked the acting director of the U .S. Office of Personnel Management to exempt U.S. Forest Service seasonal firefighters. The Forest Service is part of USDA.

President Donald Trump imposed the freeze in the executive branch by executive order.

The representatives, in a letter to Kathleen McGettigan, acting director of the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, urged the exemption so the Forest Service will have all the resources possible.

Trump’s memorandum provides that the heads of departments and agencies “may exempt from the hiring freeze any positions that it deems necessary to meet national security or public safety responsibilities.” It also says the Director of the Office of Personnel Management may also “grant exemptions from this freeze where those exemptions are otherwise necessary.”

Each year, the Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest hires around 225 seasonal firefighters, said spokeswoman Holly Krake. The forest also hires seasonal workers for trail crews, grazing-related duties and invasive plant work.

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