The federal government yesterday appealed a ruling by a U.S. District Court judge allowing the D.C. Fire Department to begin hiring under an affirmative-action plan that reserves 60 percent of new jobs for blacks.

The ruling by Judge Charles R. Richey had barred any promotions under the plan, and already had been appealed for that reason by the District of Columbia government.

Detailed arguments from both sides are not due in the U.S. Court of Appeals for more than a month.

Richey had invalidated the entire plan on April 1, ruling that its promotion quotas violated federal civil rights laws because they "unnecessarily trammel" the rights of white firefighters, even though he said its hiring provisions were "minimally acceptable" to overcome past discrimination.

On April 26 Richey allowed the hiring plan to go into effect, saying the District must be able to fill 127 fire department vacancies, "which threaten the health and safety" of D.C. residents.

The plan specifies that the racial composition of the fire department should reflect the proportion of blacks in the city's working-age population, which is about two-thirds black. Blacks now account for 38 percent of D.C. firefighters.