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California firefighters stretched thin as blazes sweep state

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — California's fire department is stretched thin just as the bone-dry state enters the peak of its wildfire season.

Statistics provided to The Associated Press show vacancy rates exceed 15 percent for some firefighters and supervisors, and above 10 percent for certain equipment operators.

Department of Forestry and Fire Protection spokeswoman Janet Upton says the shortages can force CalFire to keep remaining firefighters on duty longer as they battle massive wildfires across the state.

About a quarter of departing employees over the last two years have told officials they left for better jobs with other agencies.

The issue has become part of a labor dispute with the union that represents state firefighters, which blames low pay compared to other agencies.

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