New Medical Exams Required for Alaska Federal Firefighters

    FAIRBANKS, Alaska (AP) — People wanting to fight wildfires in Alaska will have to submit to a medical examination before working for the federal government's Alaska Fire Service.

    The new requirement applies to those jobs with the federal Bureau of Land Management, the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner reported. The rule does not apply to the state emergency firefighter program.

    Firefighters will be able to get free exams through a mobile medical team that plans to visit 28 villages, beginning in November. Huslia and Galena will be the first communities visited.

    The federal medical requirement has been in place for two years, but Alaska had been exempt. The medical exams will be required every three years, beginning in 2019.

    The exams include vision and hearing tests, a blood draw and a urine test, but not a drug test. There also will be a yearly health questionnaire.

    The exams will be done in addition to the yearly pack test requiring firefighters to carry a 45-pound (20-kilogram) weight for 3 miles (5 kilometers).

    "The reason why we're doing this is for firefighter safety," said Alaska Fire Service spokeswoman Beth Ibsen. "Nothing is worse than falling ill or having a medical condition when you're out on a fire assignment."

    People who are prevented by health conditions from passing the medical exams or pack tests can obtain waivers if they can prove can do the job safely without endangering other firefighters or themselves.

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