The plight of the approximately 15,000 federal personnel who fight wildland fires and how they are being mismanaged and underpaid by the land management agencies has been receiving more notice in the last two months. The government will not call them firefighters while they perform one of the most hazardous jobs in the world, except when they are killed in the line of duty, instead preferring the title “Forestry Technician”.
The latest national news article on the topic was published today by NBC News, “Federal wildland firefighters say they’re burned out after years of low pay, little job stability.”
The piece frequently refers to the U.S. Forest Service and mentions the Bureau of Land Management, but three other federal agencies are just as guilty of the same types of systemic malpractice — Fish and Wildlife Service, Bureau of Indian Affairs, and National Park Service.
Legislation that has been introduced could help mitigate conditions for Forestry Technicians and would actually describe them as “firefighters.”
Wildfire Today strongly endorses the Wildland Firefighter Recognition Act, S.1682 and H.R.8170 and the establishment of the wildland firefighter occupational series with a significant boost in their pay. These jobs are one of the most hazardous, and require a level of knowledge and skill that can take a decade or more to acquire and develop. Wildland firefighters are tactical athletes — special forces — some of whom work well over 100 hours a week with only a few days off each month, traveling around the country separated from their families missing birthdays, anniversaries, and soccer games. Recognizing them and paying what they deserve could improve retention which could enhance the overall quality of the workforce.
If you have an opinion about these pieces of legislation, contact your elected officials. If you support the Wildland Firefighter Recognition Act, feel free to borrow some of the words in the previous paragraph when you write to your legislators.