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New rules expected to decrease emergency firefighter ranks

FAIRBANKS, Alaska (AP) – The number of emergency firefighters in Alaska is expected to decrease due to new rules required to join the ranks.

The Fairbanks Daily News-Miner reported Sunday that emergency firefighting crews have declined in Alaska from more than 70 crews in the 1980s and 1990s down to 20 crews this year.

Starting next year, firefighters will be required to see a doctor for a physical exam before they are hired.

Former wildland firefighter PJ Simons says the new medical standards for employment are too stringent.

He says emergency firefighters crews have always stayed in good shape and passed all fitness requirements.

Tim Mowry, a spokesman for Alaska’s Division of Forestry, says the continued migration from rural communities to urban centers is also contributing to the decline.

Information from: Fairbanks (Alaska) Daily News-Miner, http://www.newsminer.com

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