Department of Interior releases spending plan for Infrastructure funds

DOI Infrastructure spending 2022-2026
Department of the Interior’s outline for spending funds appropriated by the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law for wildland fire, fiscal years 2022 through 2026.

The Department of the Interior (DOI), as required by the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law signed by President Biden on November 15, 2021, has released an outline for spending the $1.5 billion that the legislation appropriated to be used by the Department for wildland fire. Four agencies within the DOI have significant wildland fire responsibilities: Bureau of Land Management, Park Service, Fish and Wildlife Service, and bureau of Indian Affairs.

In January the US Forest Service announced how it will spend the $2.42 billion the agency will receive, and also here in February.

Before the bill was passed, we compiled a summary of the legislation’s provisions that relate to wildland fire.

Below are excerpts from a 13-page DOI document that explains how the new funds will be used.

…The Bipartisan Infrastructure Law (BIL) provides a total of nearly $1.5 billion to DOI for the Wildland Fire Management (WFM) programs and activities shown in the table below. Specifically, Division J appropriates $1,458,000,000. This funding is provided as emergency appropriations and is available for obligation until expended. Division J further specifies in which fiscal year (FY) amounts become available for obligation from FY 2022-FY 2026, as reflected in the table [above]. The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Forest Service received complementary appropriations for wildland fire management, and the two agencies are collaborating on and coordinating implementation of the BIL.

Preparedness – Workforce Reform: The BIL provides $120.0 million over five years to increase the compensation of Federal wildland firefighters, convert more firefighters to permanent, year-round employment, and support the health and safety of firefighters. The law directs DOI and USDA Forest Service to increase compensation for firefighters in some geographic areas and to work with the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) to establish a wildland firefighter occupational series. Further, DOI and USDA Forest Service are required to establish mitigation strategies for line-of-duty environmental hazards and firefighters’ mental health.

Other Preparedness: The law provides another $125.0 million over five years for other activities that will increase America’s preparedness to respond to wildland fire. They include support for workshops and training for firefighters, equipment, satellite detection and reporting, and wildfire detection and monitoring, and a pilot program to support Tribal Nations and local governments in wildfire response.

Fuels Management: The law provides $878.0 million over five years to plan and implement fuels management. This work will protect vulnerable communities from wildfire while preparing our natural landscapes for a changing climate. The law’s funding is intended to support mechanical thinning; prescribed fire; employing contractors, young adults, veterans, and Tribal Nations’ youth; and other fuels management.

Burned Area Rehabilitation: The law provides $325.0 million over five years to complete post-fire restoration activities. These actions help mitigate the damaging effects of wildfires and set landscapes on a path towards natural recovery and climate resilience.

Joint Fire Science Program: The law provides $10.0 million to DOI over five years to study and research wildland fire through the Joint Fire Science Program, which DOI and USDA jointly administer. The program will use the funding to conduct research on climate change interactions, smoke management concerns, impacts on diverse populations, and management actions that will make ecosystems more wildfire and drought resistant.

Funding for the Office of the Inspector General and Administration: The BIL requires that 0.5 percent of the appropriations be transferred to the Office of the Inspector General (OIG) and provides that DOI may use up to 3.0 percent of the appropriations for “salaries, expenses, and administration.” These amounts are reflected in the table on page 3.

Timeline for Implementation – FY 2022 and Later Years

The law establishes several deadlines that will serve as milestones for implementation, including the following:

  • Beginning October 1, 2021 (no deadline for completion set in the law): DOI and USDA Forest Service will:
    • Seek to convert not fewer than 1,000 seasonal wildland firefighting positions to permanent year-round positions that are full-time and reduce hazardous fuels on Federal land not fewer than 800 hours per year (each position); and
    • Increase the salary of wildland firefighters by an amount equal to the lesser of $20,000 or 50 percent of base salary if the DOI and USDA Secretaries and the OPM Director determine that a position is in a geographic area where it is difficult to recruit or retain Federal wildland firefighters.
  • Mid-December 2021: DOI, USDA, and DHS (through the FEMA Administrator) jointly established a Wildland Fire Mitigation and Management Commission to (1) study and make recommendations on preventing, mitigating, suppressing, and managing wildland fires, and (2) rehabilitate land devastated by wildfires. The Secretary of the Interior, the Secretary of Agriculture, and the FEMA Administrator serve as co-chairs, and other Commission members will be appointed. The Commission will issue a report within one year of the first Commission meeting.
  • March 14, 2022 (120 days post-enactment): DOI and USDA Forest Service will establish a five-year monitoring, maintenance, and treatment plan.
  • May 13, 2022 (180 days post-enactment): DOI and USDA Forest Service will develop a distinct wildland firefighter job series, in coordination with OPM.
  • Annually December 31, 2022-2026: DOI and USDA Forest Service will submit a report to Congress on the number of acres of land on which projects carried out using the BIL’s treatment funds improved the Fire Regime Condition Class of the land.
  • October 1, 2022: DOI and USDA Forest Service will develop and adhere to recommendations for mitigation strategies for wildland firefighters to minimize exposure to line-of-duty environmental hazards; and to recognize and address mental health needs, including post-traumatic stress disorder care.
  • September 30, 2027: By no later than this date, DOI and USDA will conduct restoration treatments and improve the Fire Regime Condition Class of 10,000,000 acres of Federal or Tribal lands identified as having a very high wildfire risk potential and that are located in the wildland-urban interface or a public drinking water source area.

Workforce and Compensation

  • Workforce Reform: The BIL provides DOI a total of $120.0 million over five years for firefighters’ compensation, position conversions, and health and safety. DOI will work with USDA Forest Service on strategies to increase firefighters’ compensation; convert hundreds more firefighters to full-year, permanent positions; and address firefighters’ mental health needs.
  • Workforce Assessment: Human capital is the most important investment for effective wildland fire management. Prior to enactment of the BIL, DOI decided to undertake an assessment of the wildland fire management workforce. This assessment will be valuable in implementing the BIL. DOI’s Federal Consulting Group, which is assisting the WFM program, has contracted for a Wildland Fire Workforce Assessment that will serve as baseline information about wildland fire personnel, including geographic location, pay and compensation, diversity, classification, and other factors to inform the determination of sustainable and effective workforce capacity needs. The assessment will be delivered to DOI by May 31, 2022.
  • Coordinated, Interagency Workforce Working Groups: To lead toward the establishment of a wildland firefighter series (deadline 180 days: May 13, 2022), DOI is participating in interagency working groups with OPM and USDA Forest Service to review the current classification series of wildland fire personnel. In addition to position classification and job series, these groups are also evaluating pay, compensation, and other benefits.
  • Compensation Increases for 2022: On June 30, 2021, the President announced compensation increases and retention incentives for the lowest-paid wildland firefighters. These increases were implemented over the summer for a six-month period covering through December 31, 2021. For 2022, DOI and USDA Forest Service issued guidance that no firefighter should be hired at a salary of less than $15 per hour. (Subsequently, OPM issued guidance that applies to positions governmentwide.) DOI and USDA Forest Service are coordinating with OPM on an analysis to propose a special rate request for firefighters.
  • Pre-Planning Fire Response Workshops and Training: DOI and USDA Forest Service, in coordination with stakeholders, will hold workshops and training for staff, non-Federal firefighters, and Tribal fire crews to effectively respond to wildfires and assist in increasing the pace and scale of vegetation treatments. The plan is for USDA Forest Service to lead on pre-planning fire response workshops that develop potential operational delineations and select potential control locations, and for DOI to lead on wildland firefighter training.

Equipment and Technology

  • Satellite Detection and Reporting of Wildfires: DOI and USDA Forest Service will jointly undertake an agreement with NOAA/DOC to establish and operate a program that makes use of geospatial information to rapidly detect and report wildfire starts in geographic areas for which either DOI or USDA is financially responsible for wildland fire protection and prevention. DOI and USDA will determine whether an Interagency Agreement is the appropriate mechanism for implementing this provision and, if so, which department will prepare the agreement.
  • Radio Interoperability of Incident Management Teams: DOI will determine the most appropriate method to acquire technology for each Type 1 and Type 2 incident management team to maintain interoperability with respect to the radio frequencies used by any responding agency. DOI plans to consult with USDA Forest Service and other partners.
  • Pilot Program for Slip-On Tanker Units: DOI will work with stakeholders to develop and implement a pilot program to provide local governments and Tribal Nations financial assistance to acquire slip-on tanker units to establish fleets of vehicles that can be quickly converted to be operated as fire engines.
  • Wildfire Detection and Monitoring Equipment: DOI will work with partners to procure and place real-time wildfire detection and monitoring equipment such as sensors, cameras, and other equipment in areas at risk of wildfire or in areas undergoing post-fire rehabilitation


For Preparedness, a primary focus of the BIL is the firefighting workforce. DOI will measure and monitor progress by (a) tracking conversions to permanent DOI positions among the 1,000 (or more) Federal positions required by the law; and (b) once OPM has the requisite new firefighter occupational series in place, tracking conversions and hires into the new series.

Fuels Management

The strategic management of burnable vegetation (known as “fuels”) before a wildfire is an effective approach to reduce the negative effects from wildfires to highly valuable resources and assets. DOI has an existing program to manage fuels in collaboration with multiple partners, including USDA Forest Service, other Federal agencies, Tribal Nations, States, counties, local organizations, and private landowners. Bureau specialists plan, implement, and monitor fuels management projects to mitigate wildfire risk and achieve priority land management objectives. This work occurs year-round. It encompasses a diversity of geographic locations, vegetation types, and treatment methods.

DOI will allocate the BIL’s Fuels Management funds (including thinning, prescribed fire, and fuel breaks) through the WFM bureaus to carry out priority work on Federal and Tribal lands. DOI will leverage contracts and agreements to carry out portions of this work—providing job opportunities for youth, Tribal Nations, and veterans.

Implementation Strategy, Fuels

DOI Fuels Management program will initially rely on the WFM bureaus’ existing three-year programs of work to identify projects consistent with the law’s requirements. DOI will use the following criteria identified in the BIL to prioritize funding for projects that:

1) Already have completed National Environmental Policy Act compliance;
2) Reduce the likelihood of experiencing uncharacteristically severe effects from a potential wildfire by focusing on areas strategically important for reducing the risks associated with wildfires;
3) Maximize the retention of large trees to promote fire-resilient stands;
4) Do not include the establishment of permanent roads;
5) Would commit funding to decommission all temporary roads constructed to carry out the project; and
6) Fully maintain or contribute toward the restoration of the structure and composition of old growth stands consistent with the characteristics of that forest type, taking into account the contribution of the old growth stand to landscape fire adaption and watershed health, unless the old growth stand is part of a science-based ecological restoration project authorized by the Secretary concerned that meets applicable protection and old growth enhancement objectives, as determined by the Secretary concerned.

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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.

22 thoughts on “Department of Interior releases spending plan for Infrastructure funds”

  1. WHERE DOES THIS SIT NOW ?!?!?!?!? I thought ‘something’ was supposed to happen by May 15th ?!?!?!?

  2. You don’t have to be your own advocate. You can call your union representative anytime.

    When can we expect the salary increase to actually happen? Can firefighters expect a pay increase before the 2022 fire season?

  3. FS, BLM and NPS are hopelessly sinking ships with no honor or respect. I have positively no loyalty to FS whatsoever. If given half the chance they would tread on your corpse. Do not “go the extra mile”. Do not volunteer for anything…ever. Do not ever work for comp/credit time…ever. Do not take on collateral duties. Unless you’re FLSA Exempt do not ever be “on a leash” or on-call (it’s illegal to make you do so).
    Get what you can out of these agencies and do not ever, ever expect them to be on your side. I’ve seen some abhorrent things. I’ve reported abhorrent thing up and nothing ever happens, even at my level.

  4. Do not be loyal to the FS, BLM or NPS.
    Get what you can for you and your family, do your time, and retire the second you’re eligible. Go work for a non-Fed agency that values your skill set and commitment.
    Establish boundaries so you don’t get collateral dutied to death. Land management is not a matter of Nat Sec and the powers that be just don’t care. Never volunteer for anything, if you do you enable a broken system to continue, let balls drop.
    Family is more important than any burning veg, fuels proj, etc. Do not let your job become your identity and do not let it take personal time from you. Never ever work for Credit/Comp. If you are non-exempt, you are not “on a leash”, that’s illegal. Go to every wedding. Go to Funerals. Go on a summer vacation. Go to the birthday party. Go to your kids games.
    SO and RO employees always toe the line and give the company answer. They don’t
    rock boats, they’re essentially indifferent towards anything that doesn’t immediately effect their paycheck.

  5. Hiring incentives have been discussed as far down as a GS7 position. The incentive authorized from OPM is up to 25% of the base salary, higher with more layers of authorization. I would much rather have the incentive than deal with the PCS process. Just give me the lump sum, and let me figure it out from there. We offered the incentive to a new hired GS8, helpful, not a full on solution, but eases the heavy burden of moving expenses.

    I’m in the Great Basin. Really the information I’ve been helping provide stems from data requests such as that one I snipped above. We’ve been feeding a lot of information up, but still not much information coming back down on what things are being looked at, at least at my level. The last series potential I saw was back in December, and was based on an older GS-0456 – Fire Control series from back in maybe the 50’s. Yeah, some slight similarities, but that was a joke. Hopefully they actually develop a new series, not adapt some outdated series. I know a lot of PD’s are being looked at, as well as what extra work is being done. WFDSS is not in my PD, but I’m expected to know what it’s about, for example.

    I fully understand all of our situations differ. I’m really not trying to bag on one persons challenges, because we all have them. I’m fortunate to have had a child early on in my career, who is now an adult, and I am still young enough to be doing this job. I really enjoy what I do, fire, as well as everything else. Sure there are days I just want to say F-it. Then I go for a nice drive somewhere, breathe, and remember why I chose this job. But there are things I can try and do to help that young 18 year old just starting in fire, that’s what I’ll focus my efforts on.

    Maybe I live in a bubble, that will eventually burst.

    1. I guess I’m not sharing to show “one person’s challenges” I’m trying to give some perspective to costs and challenges in the west. If our agencies want to get work done, they’ll have to attract employees that have/want families as well as women.

      If incentives are being discussed “down to the GS7 level” then are we just going to lock out family employees then? I could move around but economically it doesn’t pencil out. If I owned a median priced home, $450,000, the selling fees alone would be $27,000.

      They simply need to normalize the job and understand the challenges to recruitment and retention.

      1. Ben, I understand your challenges. The problem is the NPS/FS does not care. They do not care that you are married, they do not care that you have kids, they don’t care. I know that is harsh, but the bottom line is they need cheap labor and they have it. If you want to make more money than you need to find another job. I’m sorry, but that’s the honest truth. The NPS/FS have been this way for over a 100 years and they are not going to change. Seriously, look at the history. When the NPS/FS started they didn’t even pay women or children for their labor, they were force to pay women by the legislature. A penny on the dollar. The NPS/FS hasn’t really changed. My advise be happy with what you have, because many people do not have a husband/wife, another income, children or a job. If you’re not happy, then make change to become happy, take classes, educate yourself, get another job, do some soul searching, work a second job…but seriously don’t count on the NPS/FS to save you. It’s not their job. They don’t care.

        1. I’m not asking anyone to save me. I’m writing to hopefully keep people from entertaining this as a career and also show the real hurdles to recruitment and retention. That’s all. Thanks SR.

          I think people in Washington do care. I think our taxpayers, journalists and legislators care.

          1. Ben, I agree with you that this is a difficult career. I’ve been working in government for over 27 years and I would not encourage anyone to work for the NPS/FS, especially FIRE. A friend of mine asked me to talk to his daughter about the dangers of fire fighting. I told her about the long hours, physical exhaustion, the pay, the lack of growth, the harassment, assaults, rapes, drug problems and prostitution within the camps. I told her about suicide and the many funerals I’ve gone to and yes the sadness when friends die. I told about the many, many, many sacrifices I made (death of my child, divorce, loss of my friends). I told her about being fired and how they destroyed my career. How they threaten my life and attacked me 10 times after I was fired. She didn’t listen. 2 weeks after she started she was gang raped and had to quit. So, yeah, I don’t encourage anyone to work for the NPS/FS. So, y’all talk about pay raises, TOS, and incentives. None of that will work until the NPS/FS start putting criminals in jail. I don’t think people in Wahington care. I spoke to Congress and nothing happened. EEOC and MSPB is still broken. I’ve been on calls with Christainsen, Moore, Valsack, Warren, Sanders, and P. Biden and no they don’t give a dam!!! They only care about themselves. If they cared these problems would have been fixed years ago. They just keep kicking the can down the road. As for the reporters…I’ve talked to PBS, Dateline, and the Guardian and a lot of reporters and some do care, but are they are very cautious, because they can lose their jobs. Long story short, the only one who can take care of you and your family is you and if you don’t think you make enough money, go somewhere else. Go on USAJobs. Find a job you like and take classes to become qualified for that job. Apply. Apply. Apply. Do not let people in the Regional Office destroy your life. They will and they enjoy it. Like my dad says don’t wrestle with a pig, you just get dirty and the pig enjoys it. Get another job while you have this one. I know, I know you love your job, but rainbows and sunsets will not feed your family. Take care and good luck!!!

      2. “If our agencies want to get work done, they’ll have to attract employees that have/want families”

        Eh, okay, “have to” is a little strong and the combat arms side of the military does okay despite being an intrinsically pretty family-unfriendly line of work but ultimately I can see it–

        “as well as women.”

        Lol, no.

  6. “reducing hazardous fuels on federal land no less than 800 hour per year per position”…great, I can’t wait to work a 7 month fire season and than spend the next 5 months doing project work, probably away from home for 10 hour days…so long wife and kids! When are the line-officers that write this stuff going to realize that they need separate fuels crews to do fuels work. There’s not enough time in the year for our depleted firecrews to fight fire, do the fuels work, and catch our breath..

    1. Work 800 hours of OT and then start reducing fuels in 2 feet of snow and single digit temps. Yea.

      The future looks bleaks despite the rainbows of funding that are supposedly on the way.

  7. Plenty of GS7/8/9/11/12/13 jobs that go unfilled. There were 13 GS8/9 FOS positions flown just recently, PFT, anywhere from East Idaho, to Oregon, Nevada, California. The average applicant pool was 6 people, aside from the Boise area that is converting GS7/8 AFOS’ to the GS8/9 FOS and they had 16, half were upgrades. Most all the candidates were the same.

    15 years in fire your qual should have been enough to start moving up by now. Taking a PFT 7 would be an immediate increase of about $22k base, with more time home, 500-700 hrs of OT if you want to pad the annual income. Sure $42k isn’t great either, but it’s better than $21k.

    Let me guess, the jumper lifestyle keeps you there. The jump programs are a joke anyways in how they’re structured (note I did not say the jump programs are a joke in general) Lead rookies trainers, all that expertise, exposure, dedication to training, etc. as GS6’s or maybe a GS7?

    This career field can support a family. Be your own advocate.

    1. krs,

      Sure, but the agencies got rid of Transfer of Station, and I’m not sure asking my wife and family to move again for a $1.50/hour raise will really solve the issues? But thanks for your comment… Moving is pretty stressful, finding a new job for my wife is stressful, and any pay raise wouldn’t pay for the move alone for a few years… It’s no longer a functional model for employment. My real question is how is this sustainable, as fires grow larger and the work they are proposing needs a much larger workforce? Treating 50 million acres in 10 years they say?

      1. I think Ben is making a point about the idiocracy of our fire system rather than bitching about his position in life. Jumpers are as critical in our fire organization as any other module, it’s the one thing Cal Fire can never out-do us on lol…Besides, You shouldn’t have to quit your position at the Jump base, upend your family for 2$ more an hour. The federal government is the only employer in the country that operates this way, and Fire employees are at the bottom of the caste system…The agency’s are 5-10years behind again. Everything we have been warning them about the last few years is going to be pretty freaking obvious this summer when the government and the public realizes they don’t have an applicant pool to convert all these permanent positions they are talking about. All I’m hearing from managers about the big increase in fuels funding is “how the hell are we going to spend it, since we don’t have a workforce to implement anything.” I’m not holding my breath for it this $20,000 salary increase, really until state and national directors start paying closer attention to the real problems in the fire programs these fixes aren’t nearly big enough..

        1. I wasn’t knocking the jump program’s position in the larger organization. There’s not many programs where you hear of career GS6/7 retiring, yet you do in the jump community. That was my point.

          If there’s not a surplus of 7/8/9/11 positions in your back yard, then yeah you’ll need to entertain moving. Private sector really isn’t much different in that regard. Agencies are also still doing PCS, as I’m working through that currently myself, and I am far from a fantastic status.

          Arguing over who’s perspective is better gets us nowhere. The pace of government is painfully slow. It’s taken us 100+ years to get here, so why are we shocked when change doesn’t happen in a year? Doesn’t mean the push shouldn’t be there though.

          We just answered a whole new data request that came through yesterday regarding the classification:

          “Good Afternoon,

          As many of you may be aware, OPM is working on establishing a new wildland fire series. To accomplish this task and meet the May deadline, OPM has requested a lot of information to be provided. Much of the requested information I have been able to obtain already and have reached out to to a couple of HR Offices.

          What I need your help with it to provide copies of the current performance standards for your wildland firefighters, fire managers, dispatch positions, or any other fire related positions by grade level. I need this information to be provided to me by COB Friday (2/18/2022) If you have multiple employees on the same standard, only one of these need to be submitted.

          Please let me know if you have any questions regarding this.

          Thank you!”

          It’s moving along, but not at a fires pace, and we still don’t know what it’ll look like. Maybe “they” do.

          1. It’s all good KRS,

            I’m not complaining, I’m just saying that even with the infrastructure implementation, we are a long way from a competitive workforce. And what does that say if everyone with families is supposed to move on or get out? We need healthy, happy employees to do a lot of work in a sustainable way, not getting burned out. I do love jumping, and I feel it’s one of the few positions in the USFS that offers flexibility to have a young family. I’ve been in the career a while, and I just don’t see young people able to move up or make it unless they are living in a car and willing to forgo adulthood (House, Partner, Kids, etc…). Having kids was our choice, but I’m just speaking to the overall future of this career. It’s not sustainable currently.

            If I took a job as an engine assistant or handcrew captain, then what? I’m responsible to take a crew/engine of single young people that want to hit 1000 hours of OT and if I don’t take that engine off forest to chase OT I’m seen as lazy… Damned if you do and damned if you don’t.

            As for private sector comparisons, I don’t know anyone with more than a few years experience that isn’t hitting well above $20/hour. And often pay raises are automatic to retain their employees. Overall, wages were up 8% in 2021 for private sector workers.

            That’s an interesting email you have there. Mind sharing some more details? What region are you in and do you think they are doing a good job?

      2. Transfer of Station should be replaced with a Relocation Allowance and can be a good percentage of an annual salary. One recent GS- Fantastic I know got $25,000 to move the family across country. It’s all on you now to deal with everything but it’s not nothing. It just depends on how functional or nonfunctional the new duty station is.

        It’s probably a downgrade for sure from TOS but TOS was a bloated system that the Regions used to take funds from Forests.

  8. 15 year career in fire. 9 as a smokejumper. I’ve got two kids and in “rest of U.S.” my rent is $2500 and the only daycare with openings for two young kids charges $2600/month for both. So I’ll be paying over $60k/year before I put food on the table.

    As a 13/13 GS6-step 4 my base pay is $21k/year.

    I have to pray for big fires, lots of OT and I guess I’ll see my family in October?

    I’m not in California. You can say it’s my fault, or personal responsibility, but this job should support a family of 4 without OT. The future of the USFS/DOI is pretty bleak, especially if they don’t want employees with families. None of this work will get done without a workforce.

    1. Ben, it’s not your fault. It’s the mismanagement of the FS/NPS. They say they are family organizations, but don’t support people with families. (They use that word, family, to rell you in. Get away with a lot of bad things, including not paying you what you are worth.) Now, imagine that you have all those bills and your single or image that they fire you and black ball you so you can’t work anywhere else…that is what a lot of us are going through right now. So, we have to burn through our savings, burn through our TSP. Many went from being contributors to society, taxpayers to being homeless or in hiding. I went from being a supporter of the NPS/FS to telling people do not work there. My advise, look for a job while you still have one. USAJobs has many jobs, but I have noticed that the NPS/FS is posting jobs at a lower rate. My advise, don’t be loyal to people who are not loyal to you. I use to be an optimus, but then I worked for the NPS/FS. Sorry, I wish I had better advise. Take care of yourself and your family. Good luck!


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