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News Release

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Friday, October 31, 2003
Contact: Michael Orenstein
Tel: 202-606-2402

OPM Director James Approves Emergency Request to Extend Appointments of Federal Firefighters Battling Southern California Wildfires

OPM creates web site for retired federal firefighters who wish to return to temporary duty

Washington, D.C. -- U.S. Office of Personnel Management Director Kay Coles James today approved an emergency request from the United States Forest Service to extend employment time limits for firefighters on temporary appointment who are heroically battling wildfires covering more than half a million acres in Southern California.

James' approval comes less than 24 hours after an October 29 request from the U.S. Forest Service for an "immediate extension" for nearly all of its temporary employees nationwide who have firefighting and support skills. The Forest Service is a division of the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

"President Bush is committed to assisting federal teams as they address this crisis in California. The Administration took this action because of the unusually devastating and widespread fires this season," said James in her official response. "Without it, many essential employees would be unable to participate in the effort to quell these fires."

The employment extension covers, but is not limited to, type I hotshot crews, type II hand-crews, smokejumpers, heli-tack crews, engine crews, dispatchers, truck drivers, fire cache workers and burned area rehabilitation team members.

James' action removes a 1040 hour limitation that seasonal and intermittent employees may work in a service year.

Earlier this week, James asked agency heads to allow flexibility with work schedules for employees who must take care of personal needs as a result of the wildfires, and in some cases to grant excused absences.

To further assist the firefighting effort, OPM has posted a web site that retired federal firefighters may contact to state their interest in returning to temporary duty. That web address is apps.opm.gov/wildfires. Retired firefighters may also call 1-866-670-4943, or send an e-mail to wildfires@opm.gov to express their interest in this firefighting effort.

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Our mission is to Recruit, Retain and Honor a World-Class Workforce to Serve the American People. OPM supports U.S. agencies with personnel services and policy leadership including staffing tools, guidance on labor-management relations and programs to improve work force performance.


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