TBT: Pay and Retention Issues for U.S. Forest Service in Calif.

For Throwback Thursday, an issue that was a serious problem in 2008 has gotten much worse since we published this article on Wildfire Today February 14, 2008.

The Associated Press is picking up on the pay and retention issues the U.S. Forest Service and other agencies are facing in California. The USFS is losing a great many experienced firefighters to CalFire and other fire departments in the state who pay much higher salaries than the federal agencies.

From the San Diego Union-Tribune:

“WASHINGTON – A top federal official acknowledged Tuesday that the U.S. Forest Service is losing federal firefighters in California to state and county departments that pay more.

But Agriculture Department Undersecretary Mark Rey, who directs U.S. forest policy, told concerned lawmakers he’s still evaluating how much of a problem that is. “On the one hand you hate to lose trained people. On the other hand they’re still fighting fires under a unified command system,” Rey told a hearing of the House Appropriations Interior subcommittee. “They’re going to be on the fire line along with the federal firefighters.”

Lawmakers convinced there is a problem ordered the Forest Service to come up with a plan by Feb. 1 to increase recruitment and retention for Southern California forests. That deadline has passed but the agency is working on it, officials said.”

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Author: Bill Gabbert

After working full time in wildland fire for 33 years, he continues to learn, and strives to be a Student of Fire.

One thought on “TBT: Pay and Retention Issues for U.S. Forest Service in Calif.”

  1. In the 1980’s the maximum pay for all Forest Service employees was limiteded and arrived back home. to the regular two week pay of the Regional Forester’s normal pay. On larger fires it was common for many personnel both on the line and in Fire Camp jobs to MAX OUT before they were released when regular pay, overtime, and hazard pay were combined, meaning that real hourly wages began declining until the pay period ended or you release.that limit was ended when a bill introduced in the House by Calfornia Rep Lehmanintroducd legislation that passed both houses of Congress to remove the limitation. At that Ike except for federal mpliyees, there was no pay differential for anyone else working in locations with higher than average costs of living.

    At the same time firefighters in SoCal federal agencies were being lost to County and Municipal fire departments by higher wages and year round employment..

    Reclassisification of the jobs for those who on the fireline to reflect the risks and demands of their work, both full time and seasonal, is overdue. But this won’t change the long separations from family for career firefighters as we face almost year round Fire Season and potential need for prescribed burning to reduce the intensity of wildfires that require firefighters to “temporarily” move to “where the work is”.


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