Bipartisan group of state Senators sponsor bill to boost CAL FIRE by adding more than 1,100 firefighters

Caldor Fire strike team engines
Two strike teams of  CAL FIRE engines, including 9271C, preparing for their shift on the Caldor Fire Sept. 3, 2021. CAL FIRE Amador-El Dorado Unit photo.

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.

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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.

7 thoughts on “Bipartisan group of state Senators sponsor bill to boost CAL FIRE by adding more than 1,100 firefighters”

  1. There aren’t that many people in CA who want to be a firefighter. The lack of people wanting to do the job is the issue. Hopefully this isn’t a recipe for injuries or death due to lack of training and fast tracking.

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  2. California Globe comment about being “loaned out to Australia”:

    You always have a choice to turn down any assignment. Many would love a foreign assignment like Australia, let’s say, because everyone would love to go. What dispatch center, where are you on “the list”, what Team?

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    1. Cal Fire employees did not go to Australia. That was an agreement with the Federal Government only. Guess the FS will lose another 1100 employees. Can’t keep up in the arms race.

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  3. One good start would be to eliminate the practice of hiring limited term employees and making them retest every year. Waste of money and allows for favoritism and cronyism.

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    1. Everyone has to qualify if you go out on the line, every year. That should not change, that you need to pass the pack test, if that’s what you’re referring to?

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      1. I believe Joe is referring to requiring limited term employees to retake the civil service exams annually

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      2. That is not what he is referring to. He is referring to the fact that the seasonal employees above firefighter (LT. Captains, LT Engineers, LT Firefighter 2s) have to retake the hiring test sequence every year to be on the list to get hired. Waste of money and time. Once you have attained a level of training and are qualified for that position, you shouldn’t have to retest the next year for the same position. Taking a biddle or a pack test is only part of what they make them go through. Get Covid when the test is done and you are out for that entire year. It’s dumb.

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