A group of Republicans and Democrats in California’s Senate are sponsoring legislation that would add 1,124 firefighters to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection. Currently the agency has about 7,200 uniformed personnel.
“The men and women who are the heart of CAL FIRE would never say this out loud, but they’re at the breaking point,” state Senator Mike McGuire said at a news conference in Sacramento Friday. “What’s been happening over this past decade in the state of California with the rise of megafires, and simply not enough staffing, is not sustainable.”
The legislation would add 356 full-time and 768 seasonal personnel and require that every engine be staffed by at least 3 firefighters. CAL FIRE engines currently only average around 2.7 per engine. One of the greatest needs is hand crews. In 2020 there were 1,426 inmate firefighters in state camps, down from 4,200 a decade ago.
The proposed legislation has seen little opposition.
From the California Globe:
Wildfire fighters praised the bill, saying that long stretches of overtime with no breaks had been wearing thin on them, with the bill allowing some breathing space.
“People think we’re lucky because we largely don’t have to work for months at a time,” a Cal Fire firefighter who wished to remain anonymous told the Globe on Friday. “But, like football players or other professionals whose work comes around a certain time of the year, we are still working. We’re training, learning new equipment, working out to maintain strength levels needed, teaching rookies, going over practice scenarios, and, if the firefighters are more local, even being “loaned out” to other wildfire hotbeds like Australia.”
Thanks and a tip of the hat go out to Kirk.