SANTA FE, N.M. -

New Mexico plans to hire 40 military veterans to serve as firefighters during the upcoming wildfire season as part of a pilot program by Gov. Susana Martinez's administration.
    
The governor said Monday the veterans will be trained and form four crews to fight wildfires across the state.
    
New Mexico is bracing for a difficult fire season because of lingering drought conditions.
    
State Forestry spokesman Dan Ware said the military veterans will be in addition to about 250 seasonal firefighters the state typically hires. Starting pay is $17.40 an hour, and some firefighting training starts next week.
    
Ware said crews of military veterans could be assigned to help fight fires outside of New Mexico after the wildfire season ends in the state.