Experienced wildland firefighter explains why he resigned

“The agency is failing its firefighters on so many levels,” he said

Truckee Hotshots, hiking firefighters fire
Truckee Hotshots, hiking in. September, 2019. Truckee Hotshots photo.

A wildland firefighter who had worked his way into middle management of the Truckee Interagency Hotshot Crew has publicly resigned. A two-page letter laying out his reasons has been widely circulated, along with a copy of an email written by the Superintendent of the crew, Scott Burghard, discussing the loss of this experienced firefighter. Wildfire Today received both letters from third parties, not the two individuals named in the letters.

Chris Mariano was a GS-6 Squad Boss on Truckee until April 7, 2022. He said drafting the letter was difficult — the best part of his life was working as a hotshot on the Tahoe National Forest, writing:

I prospered — I was all in. I wanted nothing more than to be a hotshot, to be a leader, to care for the land and to be of service. While the sense of purpose and camaraderie remain, I now feel hypocritical to recruit or encourage crew members to work for an agency that is failing to support its fire management programs and thus the public.

The agency is failing its firefighters on so many levels. Classification, pay, work life balance, mental health, presumptive disease coverage, and injury/fatality support. There are efforts to correct some of these issues but for many it is too little too late…We are losing people at a terrifying rate at a time when wildfires burn longer, hotter, more frequently, and with devastating severity.

Mr. Mariano became an expert at operating drones, unmanned aerial systems (UAS), for the US Forest Service and was qualified as an FAA Commercial UAS Operator. He was the first UAS pilot in Region 5 (California) and was certified for UAS aerial ignition, test and evaluation pilot, inspector pilot, and was on a national instructor cadre for UAS aerial ignition. He had hoped to move into a full time UAS position with the Forest Service but as a GS-6 he was not officially qualified to apply.

“I plan to move into the private sector to continue training men and women to operate UAS,” Mr. Marino said, “and assist in the development of unmanned technologies to assist in wildfire suppression and prevention.”

Below is the letter from his supervisor, Scott Burghard, and following that, is a .pdf of the letter from Mr. Marino.


“Tuesday, April 12, 2022
Subject: Another IHC Resignation

“I am distributing the resignation letter of my Squad Boss Chris Mariano.  Chris is the employee every supervisor dreams of hiring.  His work ethic is unrivaled.  His selfless commitment is unbelievable.  He has battle tested, boots on the ground operational experience.  He was instrumental in bringing UAS to the fireline and introducing technologies to a technologically stagnant environment.  He is a creative problem solver.  He is a strong communicator.  He is intelligent, inclusive, dedicated, committed, passionate, professional… you name it.  Chris is the epitome of what the agency should be cultivating as a leader… not losing.  The fireline will miss him.  The agency will miss him.  I will miss him.  And my job will be tremendously more challenging without him, and my crew will be less effective and capable because of it.

“Chris’s resignation hits close to home, and very hard.  Watching the mass exodus of our operational knowledge is one of the saddest evolutions I have witnessed.  Many of my fire assignments have transformed from operationally focused suppression tactics to exercises in preserving human life.  We do not have the tacit knowledge, operational competence, or resource capacity to be effective with the scale of wildfire complexity we are facing.  Because, we have not supported our Firefighters.  We cannot fill our vacancies.  In the rare circumstance we are successful at hiring we are replacing training and operational experience with a lower degree of aptitude.  Fire behavior, fire size, and fire severity have increased exponentially over the last decade.  In contrast, the agency response has been on the opposite trajectory.  Every aspect of our wildfire suppression workforce is struggling to retain, recruit, and simply staff.  On the ground and in the air.  How are we allowing this to happen?  Was the devastation of the last few fire seasons not a compelling illustration?  How is the threat of entire ecosystems, communities and human life being incinerated not prioritized appropriately?  When is the agency going to adequately address staffing, retention and the needs of its wildfire suppression programs?  Wildfires certainly aren’t waiting…

“Chris is more than an empty seat in a crew haul.  He is more than a vacant name on an org chart.  He is more than a statistical loss.  His absence will be felt.  And the absence of the many somehow incalculable resignations will be felt.  His resignation embodies every deficiency that will contribute to the biblical destruction ahead of us.

“Respectfully,

“Scott Burghardt
Superintendent Truckee Hotshots
Forest Service”


Letter of Resignation Chris Mariano

Typos, let us know HERE, and specify which article. Please keep in mind our commenting ground rules before you post a comment.

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.

74 thoughts on “Experienced wildland firefighter explains why he resigned”

  1. This is a WAKE UP call. Who in the WO can read? Maybe more of these are coming. This is an embarrassing situation to all of us who recieved a forestry degree, folks who didn’t, and as we all served. It is time leadership get away from the computer screens and TRY to head this off. Apparently, this agency needs a shaking from the 535 on the Beltway..

    1. “Mariano became an expert at operating drones, unmanned aerial systems (UAS), for the US Forest Service and was qualified as an FAA Commercial UAS Operator. He was the first UAS pilot in Region 5 (California) and was certified for UAS aerial ignition, test and evaluation pilot, inspector pilot, and was on a national instructor cadre for UAS aerial ignition.”

      AND HE WAS A GS-6 ? What is wrong with this picture?
      I hope Mariano starts this summer getting paid what he’s worth and being treated like he’s worth it.

    2. Hello,

      I Left the Forest Service April 1st 2022 after 9 fire seasons for very similar reasons. WO folks do not care. As a young fire fighter I was blinded from the politics Just simply excited to have a job and that is a respected one. Jumping a head a few years under my belt I realized some flaws and from in house Management all the way up to WO folks and that was retention for a variety of reasons. What I was told by WO management when expressing issues or having heard others do the same was if your not happy then leave. I was an AFEO on the BDF…. ENGB-ENGINE BOSS QUALIFIED/RXB 3- BURN BOSS/ IC5- INCIDENT COMMANDER TYPE 5/ LOGSITICS TRAINEE 3 extc… To sum my reasons up briefly Lack of pay in CA on single income raising a family, No work life home balance. Shamed or looked down on for turning down an assignment/taking annual leave. Lack of In house leadership and support to us the Grunts AKA boots on the ground. Mental Health is a serious issue with in the forest service- Drinking, smoking, suicide to just name a few that I saw from my own personal experience within. I do not think the agency does a good enough job EAP is not a enough. Get to know you employees-Supervisors need to be Interpersonal & approachable. That Alpha Mentality is poisoning the agency and those people need to go and are a big part of the problem. Just felt like sharing Because you had mention WO FOLKS NEED TO WAKE UP. They are losing good people and hard workers at a very alarming rate.

  2. The people that are dedicated firefighters deserve our respect and need to be compensated for there work ethic and the dangerous job they do for this County.
    They have a complicated and essential job.

    My question is why do we have to make their jobs so difficult. We know the fuel conditions that are the most difficult to deal with on initial and extended attach and we pay no attention to factors like resistance to control and fire intensity and severity.
    We have a backlog of over 10 million acres of landscapes that have fuel loads in the hundreds of tons per acre and will be near impossible for crews to contain on even a moderately high fire danger day. We pay little or no attention to high levels of dead fuels in old burns and areas affected by insect and disease. Billions of board feet of high value timber is left on forested landscape on public lands to become the fuel for the next big megafire.

    When are we going to get back to managing fuel loads for fire resilience?

    1. We are slowly addressing this by adding more GS-9s, 11s and 12s to the org charts in “Fuels”. That will fix it. (Sarcasm, for those wondering.)

  3. At this point I think everyone is raising an alarm and asking for federal wildland firefighters to get treated better by the USFS/DOI. Congress, the White House, Media, Public are all shocked at the treatment wildland firefighters endure under the USFS.

    And amid all that concern and goodwill, the USFS simply denies there is a problem. The Washington Office of the USFS has done irreparable harm to their relationship with their own employees. Trust will not be fixed anytime soon.

    I know everyone will say they’ve seen this before, but it just feels different reading this resignation letter and plea from an IHC Supt. We lost all this person had to offer because he wanted a GS7? $1.50/hour raise? Other agencies don’t trust you to refill the office supply closet as a GS7. This is just idiotic and infuriating. Wait until engines are unstaffed and hotshot crews lose their qualifications. The current DC leadership is throwing away billions of dollars of institutional knowledge and investment as our most talented workers leave.

    I promise you if the abuse continues and we keep speaking up, the land management agencies will lose their fire programs soon enough. Everyone has had enough.

    1. I’m not disagreeing with you but if “Congress, the White House, Media, Public are all shocked”, some sort of tangible changes would have happened by now. There’s been nothing but talk.

      1. …and an infrastructure bill that comes with the lesser of a 50% increase in base pay or $20,000. That pay increase will help, but that’s only part of the problem. Nobody can afford housing; this kid still wouldn’t be able to apply for a GS-11 UAS Operator position, despite being over qualified; transfer of station is still mostly off the table.

        There is action happening in the beltway, but it’s slow, and probably too piece meal to keep up with the exodus.

        1. With all due respect, The raise is not across the board for all firefighters.

          People need to read the bill before shouting loud on every platform firefighters are getting raises.

          That raise is only for locations that are experiencing retention issues.

          Therefore, it is up to the powers that be to determine what locations qualify. Believe me… I hope it is for all firefighters. However, to my knowledge, that has not been determined yet.

          1. If you sat in on the Grassroots Zoom call you would know that, at this point, ALL locations are considered by OPM to be “hard to fill”. That exit ramp verbiage caused a lot of consternation but I for one am optimistic that it has been quelled.

      2. Congress passed a pay raise and the USFS/DOI is blocking it. Some employees are owed over $10k in back pay. Congress has passed a new classification and job series. The White House signed it.

        Watch any media report and news anchors are literally shaking their heads at the pay.

        Joe Biden called the pay “ridiculous”

        The USFS/DOI leadership is the problem

        1. A couple points:
          – Nobody is blocking the pay raise. There was a national call yesterday and they are hoping to be ready to implement in June.
          – Congress approved, and the president signed legislation for the job series and pay increase. But actually implementing that doesn’t happen with spent stroke. Both departments have been working full time with OPM to convert that law into action. They are in the process of bridging literally hundreds of position descriptions to the new series, so we can be moved over to that series.
          -It seems like they could have streamlined this process by trimming the number of PDs, but if anything, that’s an error in judgement, not a machivalian effort to rob us of our pay.

          1. What is your definition of blocking it? The money is there, and they know who should be getting it. There isn’t any reason to wait for classification to go through or PDs to be rewritten.

            Everyone who got the small bonuses last year could be getting paid the extra money from BIL right now.

            If they want to include others later then backpay those folks when they figure it out.

            The USFS is subverting Congress and blocking legislative intent.

            1. So those not under that umbrella should just be sol? What about all the years they put in to pave the way for you to get yours ? That’s a strong leg to stand on all at one time vs piece meal ? Would you like it if your were delayed. How about one team one fight. It seems like mgt is trying to include all not just ‘boots on the ground’ but all those that support fire – just my 2 cents

              1. Yes I fully support lots of people getting the pay raise, of course. I’m saying it’s pretty simple for hotshots, jumpers, fuels, dispatch, repellers, etc… To be getting the raise now. Pilots, FAOs, managers and others who included immediately can still be back paid.

                I think we’re saying the same thing, just because you aren’t in the ‘new Wildland firefighter series’ shouldn’t exclude you from the pay raise.

                But let’s get the funds moving as intended to stop the bleeding a bit

            2. Why even look at the PD’s simply looking at anyone working in an 0462, 0455, 0301 series an any PD falling in those series should be converted. Pretty cut an dry if you ask me. It’s typical gov fashion to make things harder than they need to be. As for the 401 series, those folks can stay in their management positions and continue to do nothing.

    2. Ben, I just posted a lengthy reply to almost everyone on here that has expressed there surprise at how everyone thinks these organizations are or arent acting. And let me tell you, I retired a 2nd time after initially retiring in 2005 then continuing to work until after the 2016 fire season when my health forced me to quite, and this was after over 45 years of working in and around the Fire organization(s).

      Believe me, each and every comment on this page over this article I have heard I dont know how many times, and believe me, it is not going to change ever, I mean it. I have heard them now for over 50 years, a half century, and you think it is going to change now?

      Your statement that, ” promise you if the abuse continues and we keep speaking up, the land management agencies will lose their fire programs soon enough. Everyone has had enough.” is not the first time I have heard this one either and it wont be the last. This forum provides for everyone to spout off, get some temporary relief in how you feel and how you think there is a lack of support for what you are trying to do. Well, believe me, everything, well almost everything you hear from management now and forever, will be the same for the next 50 years so sit back and relax and just realize, you are trying to do what you can, but, the changes that most everyone is wanting, will take the next 50 years to get just 5% of it done. Good luck and its just time to take a chill pill and realize, you are fighting such an uphill battle and that you are not the first to suggest what you have and you wont be the last, and it will be just like a Merry Go Round, year after year after year with never closing the door.

      1. Rick, I hear what you’re saying but a lot less houses were burning down every summer (or fall, or winter, or spring) 50 years ago. Even 5 years ago. The agency may not have changed but everything else has. I’d say good luck to them, but luck is not what they need.

  4. I’ve seen a large shift in the seasonal’s morale since they began to come back on this spring. There was a lot of excitement about “things changing” concerning pay/job classification/more seasonals converted to perms, etc. after the Infrastructure Bill was passed. It’s been six months since the bill passed and, if any progress has been made, it secret. Obviously, six months is a blink of an eye in politics but I believe a lot of seasonals came back to fire this season with hopes of something changing.

    1. Not to be flippant, but back-to-back Chiefs who are on the record dismissively telling firefighters they are “lucky to have a job” and “if you don’t like it, leave” is evidence of how tone deaf the Agency is. Decades of broken promises, low pay, poor benefits, non-existent seasonal housing options and vanishing opportunities have all come home to roost. But the WO asks “who could have seen it coming”?

      1. With people like Randy Moore making making those statements, they need to be reminded of how lucky they are to have a job.

  5. It’s funny. The USFS just posted a while article about the importance of the UAS program yesterday.

    https://www.fs.usda.gov/inside-fs/delivering-mission/sustain/aerial-ignition-academy-trains-drone-pilots-and-reduces-risk

    No doubt a team of GS12s put this video together, as well as thousands of dollars to train each employee on this new technology… Yet the guy that is the most qualified on UAS systems and also kicks ass on a hotshot crew with a bright future can’t get a GS7 job in fire… It would be funny if it weren’t so sad

  6. Good on you Chris. Take care of yourself and family. We have one life and it’s short.
    I commend you for making the tough decision and putting yourself first.

    Take care and love life.

  7. As a non-firefighter but someone who lives on the western slope of the Sierra, this is a question I’ve been wondering about over the past few years.
    Why don’t we have a coordinated fuel reduction program that systematically addresses built up fuel, beginning along already existing roadways (which will also improve evacuation routes, when needed) and then expanding out from populated areas to provide strategically planned swaths of land w/ reduced fuel load. Create permanent, robust, year-round fuel reduction crews. We have an insane amount of fuel sitting in the forests, so progress may be slow at first, but its better than sitting on our hands until fire season comes and then sending people into extremely dangerous and chaotic situations. We either clear our forests (methodical and relatively safe work) or watch them be completely incinerated (sending folks into increasingly dangerous and catastrophic fires). Which makes more sense?

    1. The agencies can’t find the people. Fed pay starts at $15/hr and, if you want to work your ass off doing manual labor, you can make at least double working construction, get promoted for good performance and not worry about someone in HR 2000 miles screwing up your paperwork.

    2. Ummm we do have a program like that, and are often lumped in as fire/fuels. Problem is we are as understaffed, overworked, and burned out just as much as the fire guys. I am a fuels technician with the forest service and I get called and fight as much fire as a hotshot, engine modules or any other module. Then guess who we have to ask to try and get our projects done due to having a small work force…. hotshots, engines, type 2 IA the same people who are fighting these fires. In March alone I’ve worked over 100 hrs of OT sacrificing every weekend burning to meet fuel reduction targets. I could get more done with more people but I’m just one of three people where I work in Utah, and often have to beg militia people so we can do the burning while we have more ideal conditions to burn. It also doesn’t help that a bulk of the fire workforce tour of duties are 13-13 or 18-8s, meaning the are only useful to the agency for a portion of the year and then laid off once their 13 or 18 pay periods are up regardless if there is work or not that could be done in the late fall winter and early spring…. there’s no budget is what I always got told when I was in that position even tho I wanted to work past my appointment. Funny thing is I can contract work out to get done and I have a budget for that even tho it cost way more then what a 13-13 or 18-8 GS5/6/ or 7 make. Or those militia people I do get to commit to helping are GS 9/11/12/13s seems about right. Did I mention congress want is to up the number of acres treated from 2-3 million a year to 20-30 million/year by 2030…. with no workforce?? Solution make all fire guys have a mandatory 800hrs of fuels work. We already do that lol.

    3. You can make $15 an hour in the Central Valley working @ McDonalds, the key is to up the pay substantially for firefighters to say $30, and then what i’d do is this:

      3 out of the last 4 initial storms of the year have come around Thanksgiving and were quite powerful with a lot of advance notice of their potential. We had the Hose Creek Fire here in the southern Sierra which had grown to nearly 2,000 acres over a month, and then WHAMMO, no more Horse Creek Fire.

      Spend the money and set up hundreds, no thousands of prescribed burn areas and do it in a smart way, so as to create overlapping firebreaks and more. A few days before the storm shows up you light em’ up and let Mother Nature do all the heavy lifting of putting them out.

      If the initial storm of the late fall isn’t up to snuff, you do nothing aside from expanding the perimeters for the next year’s first storm.

    4. RYAN, making sense is not part of the equation here. After the huge fires of 2020 in Oregon, the highways (and forests) were blanketed in standing gray snags, and the state and the FS got busy right away clearing hazard trees and planning tons of fuels removal — and promptly got sued by several groups to shut them down. “But they’re cutting some trees that don’t look like hazard trees!! Make them stop!!”
      It seems perfectly logical to activate “a coordinated fuel reduction program that systematically addresses built up fuel” but it’s not going to happen. If there was a big groundswell of demand from the public (and counties and states and the media), it might be possible, but that would require that people understand fire and forestry and other simple concepts, and they don’t.

      1. Litigation in R5/R6 kill a lot of fuels reduction opportunities. The air shed/air basin restrictions don’t help either.

    5. Would there ever be enough funds and labor to eliminate this constantly building fuel? Is it not an insurmountable task that no place on the planet has figured out?To think that this firefighter was a GS6 is unthinkable and he is just one person speaking out. Will they ever be compensated for their work and the toll it takes on their mental health? The sad reality is that I don’t think it will ever happen, so if you live in a fire prone area, you have to have a bank account ready for anything, upkeep your defensible space, be ready for evacuations and accept that you’re living in an unsustainable place, becoming less inhabitable every year. Personally, I believe the only two defenses homeowners and renters have is to keep up their defensible space, try to fireproof their property, hope for the best every year or move. It’s painfully defeating, it’s just grief every single year. Another year, another town gone, another senior’s finances destroyed for life.

  8. His letter sounds a lot like the reason I left my BLM engine captain position in 2019. I had a collateral position managing CA’s fire fleet. I worked with the entire fire management program and was asking that a dedicated position be created to handle this work load. I also helped rewrite the ENOP course. I received very similar run around and keep up the great work here’s a small cash award now hush. Good on you Chris for taking the high ground and taking care of yourself.

    1. That sounds like my park in California state parks, we have worker 1s doing supervisor work and field work fixing building and other stuff, we have a supervisor position that was closed for 3 years but has been reopened for the last 3 years with numerous applicants and only three interviews even a guy who worked there. Our mechanic is doing vehicle service for 4 parks and 1 of those parks is supposed to have a mechanic but won’t for at least another year.

  9. The disconnect between the people working on the ground risking their lives and the people sitting behind a computer (emerged in made up committees, groups and teams that don’t do anything ) is immense these days. There are the employees who have gone into work everyday sense Covid 19, sweating and bleeding and the others who live a false life at home teleworking behind a screen in the land of emails . Leadership needs to stop talking and start acting. When will leaders start standing up for the workforce? When targets and standards are requested like staffing numbers and fuels targets by the regions or WO -when will they speak up and say “we can’t – we don’t have anyone to physically work. They all got burned out from stress and a lack of support.”

    1. There’s no incentive for the GS-1000s to fix the hiring/HR/pay/benefits/retention issue. Rattling cages with “the system is broken” won’t get them anywhere politically. There’s no lobbyists with money involved so there’s no incentive to act. A certain US Rep. called wildland firefighters “unskilled labor” publicly and, I assume due to the lack of any positive changes, the majority of congress shares his sentiment.

    2. Leaders would stand up for the workforce better if they were promoted up from the ranks based on merit, experience, and performance; anointing them based mainly on advanced degrees, fellowship programs, or other politically correct factors as they are now isn’t proving too successful. I believe that’s where the disconnect resides.

  10. Good for you too Chris,
    I just left last February, 16 years in, last 11 with the Feds. Hotshot, then squadie, Ass Capt, then Patrol, then stick a fork in me. No time for family and no guarantee this pay thing is going through right. I landed a Veg Management Contractor Job for a Utility making so much more and being in bed at night and seeing my daughter. I do miss the camaraderie and feeling like I’m making a difference with the excitement. Guess I’m doing prevention in another way now. At least I just got my task force before I left, so much work to get there, lots of good memories. Last notch in the belt.
    -Be safe out there this year you Forestry and Range technicians. Much love-

    1. Congratulations! I hope the Infrastructure Bill money wasn’t a “bait and switch” to lure seasonals back for a season based on false hopes but it’s starting to look that way.

  11. It’s sad but predictable we lost this TRUE asset.

    The Apathy at SO, RO and WO levels is positively astounding!!!!!!! They are chock full of people that have made it to the GS “fantastic” level and now can’t give a *^## about anyone they allegedly supervise. The R2 RO, por ejemplo, is teeming with the most indifferent, worthless, hopeless, feckless, hapless culls the world has ever known. All they care about are their own evals and hubris.

    Maybe it’s time for us to just say NO. ASC wants you to send in your paperwork again because they didn’t like the format? NO. Someone wants you to fax in paperwork that you already emailed 4x? NO. Some clown wants to turn off your purchase card because you didn’t take the umpteenth refresher? Go ahead, I’ll mail you the shredded card!

    Ya BASTA!!!!

    1. There’s 100 finance people screech “show your fuc***” lunch” on your CTR for every person who’s actually doing something productive.

  12. Maybe it’s time for all Hotshot crews, Helitack, engines, Smokejumpers, etc. to stand down on on a day when the agency depends on us the most? Say like, July 4th. Complete stand down, no response. Unfortunately it’s going to take something dramatic to get any real change.

    1. Well hell, that’s easy….call a Safety Standown Day for all the cumulative safety issues for the last few years…some Safety Standdown Days have some real effects depending upon who is paying ….has worked for some…

  13. It is very interesting to read this letter. First off, I had to finally retire after 45 years of wildland fire work in both the line and logistics. I originally retired in Jan 2005 and then worked until after the 2016 fire season working mainly in logistics. I did not have an official “fire job”, but, with a lot of hard work, grit and grind, and with the work that I did over the 30 years I had in both LE and Fire, I was able to get my firefighter/LE retirement.
    With that all said, yes, I was one of those that a lot of fire folks didnt really care for as a Casual and regular employee that worked his/her way up through the fire ranks to positions that I still felt like I had to do extra work for to attain because I was not in the “fire organization”.
    But, this is not why or what I am commenting on. First, I read almost every comment on this article and since I am now 67 years young 🙂 and I worked for both the FS and BLM retiring from the BLM, I have to say first and foremost that each and every argument that every person on here has made is not the first time I have ever read, said, or heard before. This cycle goes round and round almost every year and each time that there is a new group of fire folks who feel like they have been shafted, this all comes out.
    And yes, I have been one of those that heard each and every comment that has been said on here not just once, but time and time again. I have been on many IMT’s in my career and gone through many FMO’s, District Rangers, Field Office managers, District Manager, Forest Supervisors on and on. And so, what that said, will all of these people listen to what is being said here? I am willing to bet, 90% or more will not and if they do, they really wont care now just like they didnt care back when I was working and trying to get more support for the fire program, fire fighters, and fire positions of “qualified” individuals.
    This will never change folks, never. You will always have the small minority of Congressional supporters, administrative supporters etc that they will help mount a charge to get things done that you want, but, eventually the sound will be drowned out and it will become dead in an echo chamber.
    Yes, it is sad that is does happen, but, one thing that I had to learn and I have told many both inside the fire organization and those outside of it but working within it is this. Just remember, we chose to get into this field of work as described in the resignation letter and we always got our hopes up higher than high. But, when it came down to the bottom line of asking for more overtime, more positions with advance potential, with more options of pay increases, just remember who is really pushing the buttons. And sadly enough some of them are fire folks, but most have never worked in the fire arena and that is not going to change. But, even those who have worked in the fire arena have been most likely been told to slow it down and stop the pushing or they wont have a job either.
    As you move up in any of these organizations, the politics take over and the pressure to toe the organizational line becomes so intense that you eventually bow to that pressure and you settle back and just let things be.
    Yes folks, sad but true, you just watch and even go back 10 years and in the future 10 years out, these same issues will be at the forefront and will never end. That is it will never end until like law enforcement in both the Forest Service and BLM did, they became a line organization and took any supervision or budgeting out from under line management. Did it work right away? Were managers happy? No to both, but, at least things were able to finally start working. And now, just like I said and was told many many years ago, as long as you work in an organization that knows how to just give lip service to what you want to hear vs what will actually happen, this is just how it is and it will never change.
    It’s always nice to be able to vent on issues like this, it gives some a sense of satisfaction, and i was one of them at one time, but, I have not commented on stories or issues like this for many years now, I have moved on, but, I could not resist to comment one more time for those of you in your teens or 20’s or even early 30’s wanting things to improve and work to your advantage.

    And, I realized, IT IS NOT GOING TO CHANGE NOW OR EVER. I have heard it since I started in 1976 and now its 2022. So just think about what is happening now and I do feel for this person, but, he is just one of the many that have hoped to make a change within the Services and it didnt happen, and he will not be the last. And, from what I have read, there are many of you out there that will attempt to push this issue on. I wish you all well, but, I really dont think it will happen now or in the next 10, 20, or even 30 years.

    Good Luck to all of you and be safe out there no matter what someone tells you or forgets to tell you. Make sure your assets are taken care of because no one else is going to do it, believe me, its a rough rough world out there and thats all people look for, protecting their own assets. Good Luck to all of you.

    1. Rick, when in your career did Congress sign a pay raise and new classification for wildland firefighters into law?

  14. Nice letter from the sup. Our FMO is of the mindset “if you don’t like it leave” and “you should feel lucky to even have a job”.
    GS-6 with all the experience and qualifications of a 9/11 but I don’t have time-in-grade either. Guess I will leave. The agency that is.

    1. I worked for a District FMO who told a group of us Engine Captains who had come to him with a list grievances the same thing. Leave if you don’t like it. Later he was promoted to Forest FMO and became a Type 1 Incident Commander on an Incident Management Team. After he retired he made money by teaching courses, passing on his management philosophy to others seeking to move up.

      1. That’s typical of so many managers. All about themselves and couldn’t care less about the employees who do all the hard work and make them look good.

      2. Maybe one day someone will do an article with multiple people from all Regions with their horror stories and how they feel the agency is doing.

    2. Your FMO sounds like an absurd train wreck of a sh+*bag. I laugh at people with that attitude, right in their face from about 1.5″ away.

  15. We can’t fill dispatch positions either-and that’s the starting point for every crew, supply, and piece of equipment that makes its way to the line. Management refuses to address toxic work environments and toxic people that make a difficult job more difficult; We all know a Center Manager or Assistant Center Manager or two that are so miserable to work for that people quit mid-season or just flat refuse return. To mitigate the vacancy issue some regions have decided to consolidate centers…to locations that are too expensive for new hires to enter into the housing market. The agencies have failed us all and I can’t wait to leave.

    1. The reason you can fill dispatch positions is because of the quals and the way the positions are posted. Look at the postings and ask yourself who qualifies for this job? The only person who can qualify is someone who is already doing the job, so you’re never going to get more dispatchers.

      1. SR, not exactly. A logistics dispatcher can walk in off the street and get a job, no experience necessary. This experience will qualify them for a permanent position. We can’t fill positions for exact same reason the field can’t fill them. Plus, as many a broken firefighter will tell you-this job is mentally exhausting and isn’t for everyone.

        1. Dispatch Bro, I know I was in dispatch for years. In 2015-16, the quals were changed. They added the 90 day fire experience, which pushed out 100s of women and they replaced them with men who were about to retire. Now, you can’t find experienced people. How are you suppose to get the 90 day experience when your boss won’t let you go on fires? Look at the postings on USAJobs. They still require the 90 days. So, no you can’t just walk in off the street. It takes time to train these people. I know the mental toll it takes, I was there when people died, I know the feel of lack of control, and then having to plan funerals on top of my regular job.

          1. It’s not my intention to get into a pissing match with you SR, but I’m here in dispatch right now. I’m a woman and I worked on engines two decades ago-that’s how I got here and got 90 days-that requirement was on the books before 2015 because I was hired with the 90 day requirement before that. I’ve worked with nothing but women for the last decade-no one was replaced by men. The last folks we hired were people off of the actual street and they did get to go to fires and they were converted. Yep, it does to take time to train them and then they realize how bad it sucks and they quit. The last part I agree with.

            1. Dispatch Bro, I don’t want to get into a pissing match with you either. 🙂 I worked in R8 and R3 and I saw what happened. And I see what’s happening now. There’s a disconnect between the offices and ASC. There is a huge problem with the way NPS/FS is hiring. So, there was about 500 people who applied for 1 position (1 POSTITION!) back in November. In November OPM sent out an email saying this is not an offer, but we are recommending you to the hiring manager. At the beginning of April the hiring managers finally got back to people saying that they are qualified. It’s been 5-6 months. Still no interview. Still no job. Why should someone take a job when they’ve already been treated this way? Why should people wait around for a GS-6 position? The NPS/FS says they need people. That they are hiring people. But we don’t see it that way. I totally agree with you that dispatch is a difficult job. The problem is the hiring process. There’s a lot of gotchas and it’s a really slow process. If the agencies are going to treat us poorly as potential employees, how will y’all treat us when we are employees? Dispatch Bro, my heart really does go out to you. You have one of the most difficult jobs.

  16. I’ve seen and heard all of this before. I’m sorry, but there is nothing you can do to fix this. You can stay and bang your head against a wall or quit and do something else. I’m not saying this to discourage the people there, but I’ve been fighting this system for a very long time and it’s just not worth it.

  17. Do I think a National Fire Service will fix the bureaucratic inanity of government work, no. But if we have an agency dedicated to the sole purpose of responding to national emergencies, staffing our IMTS, and protecting our wildlands, perhaps we can climb out of this self inflicted hell hole the FS has created.

    An HR program that is understaffed and is the tail that wags the dog, WO and RO staff that seem bent on towing the agency line despite knowing the truth that folks across all resource areas are vacating this clown show as fast as possible, staff that lie to congress, and (because several line officers have expressed this to me) a leadership that has fought tooth and nail to prevent us from becoming wildland firefighters, professionalizing the service and providing us with benefits that somewhat at least equal the risk.

    It is up to each and everyone of you to write your congressional delegation. They will respond. I know many of you live out east or the midwest but right now the only primary politicians fighting for the Tim Hart bill are in the Rockies or out west. Contact the media. Internal change is a waste of time.

    We must develop a service that is prepared to deal with the challenges of changing and more complex fire environment. One that professionally develops first responders. One that plans further ahead than the next fiscal cycle. One the understands the changing shift in the workplace and requirements to train, retain and recruit a workforce dedicated to protecting our public lands.

    1. A National Fire Service won’t work when a lot of the problem is the current fire leadership that are killing morale. If you could get most SO and RO people to retire then it might get better. Also I think the people on the ground should have some say on who is put in charge. But truthfully we all no nothing is going to change.

  18. Vacant positions cover the land management agencies but according to people in DC – hiring is going as planned and is very successful. 🤔 not seeing it? From what I see we will be down staffing more crews and engines then last year. Is it just me?

  19. I’d also like to point out that inflation is kicking our butts. Congress gave social security a cost of living adjustment of 5.9% for 2022, but standard GS pay went up only 2.2%, except if you live in DC or another big city where all the GS-infinities live they got 2.7% (most forestry techs do not live in big cities).

  20. The whole process need reformed, we never had to do years worth of task books to move into new positions that you can be qualified for in just a season or months. The trickle down from the fs to state agencies that can’t fill crews, all the way down to the vfd that an engine boss with 11 evaluators gets turned down. Its a complete mess all the way down to the requirements to fire departments just to get paid.

  21. Always sad to lose a a very best performer, worker, leader… I can understand his frustrations and seeing better life options elsewhere. A different question, asking those who know, who have been there:
    What can a first year GS-3 firefighter expect to make in total year, if they work the entire fire season ? That first year is important to define a possible career direction for someone . I know it will vary a lot based on dozens of variables but maybe a reasonable minimum and reasonable range? If you are knowledge please reply.

  22. I’ve been with DOI 10 years, and I’ve heard all the same arguments too. I agree with the couple of retired guys that seem to think it’s never going to change. Sad too.
    What’s neat is that there actually IS a path for guys like Chris to go from GS-6 to a GS-11/12 UAS pilot position, and it’s exactly what Chris seems to have figured out for himself; go to the private sector and get at least 52 weeks or more of “GS-11/12 equivalent” experience. Then apply as a civilian, not as a federal merit promotion from GS-6, which just isn’t possible thru HR. Pretty simple, and I wish him the best of luck, however with as good as the private sector takes care of folks in these positions I’d be surprised if Chris comes back and applies for a position with USFS/DOI.

  23. The only place I’ve seen hire people in a timely and appropriate manner is NIFC. They have a vacancy, it’s on the streets ASAP, closes on time, conduct interviews of the top 5-10 candidates and have them in place 2 weeks after the announcement closed. Why are they the only ones who operate this way? Oh its because they have people who know their job and want what’s best for the agencies.

  24. After reading through the letter and then most of the comments. I would say that there was one idea that was mentioned that would have the fastest path to change. That was the comment on the safety stand down from JU. I would lead that to the path of a full on strike right during the summer for all fed firefighters!
    I know that we signed on to an agency that has it in the job “as you can not strike against the agency” but just think about this for a few minutes. If very large organization, like the NFL, NBA, NHL, and so on, can strike and usually get changes made fairly fast then just think about what we can do……..
    It would have to take a very good organizing and a full commitment from our workforce with a defined set of wanted goals. And I would bet good money that you would see some real fast changes.
    Just so you all know I do work for the feds as a firefighter. With all do respect to the seniors that have retired and making comments here about “nothing will change”. I would have to disagree with that just a little bit. Your right that it will not change unless we all standup together and then yes we can make the needed changes to our organization.
    Stay strong and I for one will be looking out for you all my brothers and sisters.

    1. Voice, people spoke about a strike back in 2018 and then again in 2019, but the idea was shut down by the union. I think it’s a good idea, but there are concerns…What if a house burns down? What if someone gets hurt? Can people get fired for striking? I think most of the people were concerned about getting arrested and that that they might get fired and would lose what they already had. The real issue is what if the strike works what do y’all want to change? We had a meeting and gave Vicki Christiansen a proposal back in 2019 and still nothing changed. If you want to strike you have to have demands and a matrix to show that they are doing it. There’s more to a strike than making signs. You have to get permits and you have to get the media involved. But if y’all want to do it let me know where to show up and I’ll be there!!!

  25. It’s against the law for Feds to strike. In Aug of 81 Air Traffic Controllers went on strike. Reagan fired all 11,300 of them and the FAA still hasn’t recovered from it.

    I love the idea!!!! Lets strike and MAKE them fire us all in July at a PL5! OR, people can just refuse to take fire assignments and passively “strike” since you can’t be forced to take an assignment. Imagine if it was just straight UTF’s allllllllll summer for every billet!

  26. I feel for this crew – what a heart wrenching letter to be passed along by a supervisor – at once it makes me proud to know there are still ‘good ones’ out there, but damn are they fewer and farther between – trapped in the no authority gauntlet and being crapped on by the higher ups – I can tell you from DOI the BS ‘priorities’ being pushed from the top have absolutely nothing to do with mission – inclusive workforce, safe spaces… give me a friggin break – all it is is more gs-11s sitting in air conditioning all summer posting on Facebook – big thing that would do a lot for grunts – get rid of the stuffed suits and put the money where it belongs – on the goddamned line with the people actually doing the work – the money is there the ‘management’ isn’t and the ‘leadership’ damn sure isn’t – skewed priorities and nonsense politics clouding the mission and burning passionate, competent people out – who wins? Who benefits from all this? Our rightful heritage burns away, erodes away, until all we have is burnt out cinders for xanterra to make money off of – pathetic

    1. You are so right, where is the leadership. Funny thing is that all these people in the SO sure don’t miss out on the overtime do they? My last Chief 1 never went on fires but always managed to have 800 -1000 of overtime every year and the Forest Superintendent wasn’t far behind. They care about themselves and no one on the ground.

    2. So annoying thinking of all the discord with the gs 11’s and above … Who do you think paved the way for you to have your jobs? Who also spent years in the field ? Remember they put their time in too down in the trenches .

      1. HAHAHHA!!!! Reminds me of a recent conversation with my gs-12 super – going over where we started – I started as a 3, the other two workers started as 4 and 5 – the super, who spent his time in the trenches started as a 12 right out of the gate – no field time, no actual experience – so much for him being in the trenches – PFFFFFTTTT

  27. Well after 27 years in fire I hate to say it, but our issues will never be fixed. We don’t have leaders in the SO, RO or WO’s anymore, we have career managers, and they are all looking for their next promotion or disciplinary promotions. The FS is probably the most dysfunctional agency I ever worked for and it’s just a matter of time before they won’t be able to hire anyone to work for them. There are very few in upper management that want to manage or be leaders and that’s proven every day. How many failed Forest Supervisors did Randy Moore hire in his tenure? Did he improve morale? Did he improve working conditions? Did he ever listen to the people on the ground? I’ll say no, but he got promoted because of his failures. We all know that we can increase pay, reclassify everyone to Firefighters and things won’t change because morale and management won’t change. I took a new job as an FMO in the Northeast corner of Region 5 and after a year and a half I said enough because of how poor management was and how they didn’t care. I had a year left to get my high 3 and it wasn’t worth it. This forest has two FMO’s, east and west side, and they’ve had 6 FMO’s in just over 2 1/2 years. This is happening everywhere in every region and this is why I think there’s not much hope for things to change. I will never encourage someone to go to work for the FS ever.

  28. 30+ years in fire, woman, 2o+ yrs with FS, 10yrs with state, I have experience and training in various positions on different types of modules at the Captains level(officially) and Battalions level (unofficially). Creating programs still being used today by the various programs. Yet, due to my personal believe to not engage with the “A$$ Kissing” or “bulling” of other employees or supervisors, I was targeted and thus my career suffered because of it.

    Retaliation is big in fire, and no one wants to be the next target, so they stay quiet for decades. All the while those bullies belong to a coveted group, and are protected. These bullies are now our line officers, and Fire Managers, and will only protect the ones that kissed their A$$e$, or were engaged in their antics in the past.

    Firefighting has changed its language, with increased fuel loads, weather, technology etc. Boots on the ground are responsible for deciphering it in real time, not just behind a desk. Its up to us to learn this language because we have the most direct interactions with it, and all of our specialized training has helped us to be the SPECIALISTS that we are. Most of the training investment’s were through our agencies S- courses, L- courses, field training, etc. Years, decades lifetime careers spent on you, me , US to be tossed for a few dollars. To not mentor these investment’s is a waste of time for FF and a waste of money for the tax payers who expect their investments to pay out during fire season and especially during a catastrophic fire season.

    Supervisors and management remain self-serving, and get raises because of it. Forgetting where they come from, or how they got there.
    Although we can not strike legally, something drastic should be done so our voices are heard. Change HAS to happen, so MAKE IT HAPPEN!
    To stand UP, we need to stand DOWN!

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