Norton orders Interior staffers to fire lines

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Norton orders staffers to duty on fire lines

By Ann Imse, Rocky Mtn News Staff Writer

June 13, 2002

Secretary of the Interior Gale Norton has ordered several thousand Interior staffers to drop their regular work and report for duty on fire lines across the United States.

Norton told supervisors that if their employees are certified for firefighting, "their first priority should be wildland fire suppression and support."

Staffers should report their availability and qualifications to fire management and be ready for assignment, she said. "Employees with aviation, operations, logistics and finance backgrounds will be needed."

Interior spokesman John Wright said this happens every year. When there are few fires, employees may work the fire line only a week or so, just enough to stay current in their training. This year, Norton is ordering them to switch duties, and they could be firefighting for months, he said.

The Department of the Interior includes the National Park Service, Fish and Wildlife, Bureau of Land Management and numerous other agencies.

Officials at the Department of Agriculture, which includes the Forest Service, could not be reached to say if they have ordered similar mobilization.

But Forest Service spokesman Lynn Young in Denver said it is normal procedure. He said many Forest Service staff already have dropped recreation, wildlife and other projects because they are so busy fighting fires, "and it's not even summer yet."
 
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