WASHINGTON — The drought that caused record wildfires in California and other Western states last year is expected to persist through the summer, but fewer firefighters will battle this year’s blazes in other regions because of federal budget cuts, top federal officials said Monday.
The U.S. Forest Service will hire 500 fewer firefighters this year, the result of “line by line” budget reductions required by Congress, Department of Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said in a conference call with reporters. The reduced staffing also means 50 fewer fire engines will be available, Vilsack said.
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