The senators said the annual winter hiring and training of firefighters is halted, as are forest restoration programs, and that the president is "needlessly putting people and rural forested communities at risk."
Senators Maria Cantwell and Patty Murray, of Washington state, said the federal government shutdown “puts peoples’ lives at risk” by delaying forest restoration and wildland firefighter training programs, in a joint letter with 10 other Democratic senators sent to President Donald Trump on Monday.
The senators pressed him to reopen the government, which has been partially shut down for weeks, as President Trump and Democrats remain at an impasse over funding for his border wall and security proposal.
“We write to urge you to cease the ongoing government shutdown and allow our nation’s forestry professionals and firefighters to continue forest restoration work and training certifications in advance of the coming fire season,” the senators wrote.
The senators wrote that each winter federal agencies, including the U.S. Forest Service and the U.S. Bureau of Land Management, train current firefighters, hire seasonal firefighters and issue contracts to prepare for wildfire season. Agencies also train smokejumpers, incident managers and other specialty firefighters during the winter, according to the senators.
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“If enough firefighters fail to be recertified, the nation could face a critical shortage of qualified firefighters during fire season,” the senators wrote.
Forest-restoration projects, like controlled burns and thinning, are also on hold, the senators wrote, citing news reports.
“By stopping these important forest management activities, during the very winter months when it is safest to carry many of them out, you are needlessly putting people and rural forested communities at risk,” the senators wrote.