President Obama to Honor Fallen Firefighters

President Barack Obama will travel to Frederick County on Sunday to speak at an annual memorial service for fallen firefighters, at a time when firefighters in Western states continue to battle devastating wildfires, reports The Balitmore Sun.

Obama will address the 34th National Fallen Firefighters Memorial Service in Emmitsburg, Md., to honor dozens of firefighters who died in the line of duty last year. The service is organized by the National Fallen Firefighters Foundation.

“The president looks forward to thanking our nation’s firefighters for the extraordinary courage they display every day, particularly during these challenging times as communities across the Western United States combat the recent outbreak of wildfires,” White House spokesman Josh Earnest said Wednesday.

Wildfires in Oregon, California and Washington have caused hundreds of millions of dollars in damage this year. Three firefighters who worked for the U.S. Forest Service were killed last month battling a wildfire in Washington state.

The White House said Obama would honor 84 firefighters killed in the line of duty last year and an additional three firefighters killed in previous years. There have been 65 firefighter fatalities reported in 2015, according to the U.S. Fire Administration.

The federal government employs about 15,000 firefighters, more than half of whom work only seasonally.

The Obama administration extended federal health benefits to seasonal firefighters in 2012. Previously those employees were prohibited from enrolling in federal health plans under regulations that required one year of continuous employment for eligibility.

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