CAL FIRE to add more firefighters, engines, dozers, and helicopters

Will add 1,503 personnel, 27 engines, 4 helicopters, and 10 dozers

CAL FIRE dozer and transport
File photo of a new dozer and transport for the Nevada Yuba Placer Unit of the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection. CAL FIRE photo, March, 2019.

The new budget for California signed into law June 30 by Governor Gavin Newsom includes a massive increase for the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (CAL FIRE) for the fiscal year that began July 1, 2022.

The budget authorizes 11,293 positions, a 13 percent increase of 1,503 personnel. 

To add to the 12 new S70i Firehawk helicopters that were funded a couple of years ago, they will spend $99 million to purchase an additional 4 to help maintain continuous flight operations during critical fire weather conditions when frontline helicopters are due for maintenance. 

In addition, $45 million is set aside annually for the next three years to secure exclusive use (EU) contracts for 10 additional helitankers while awaiting the federal delivery of seven former Coast Guard C-130 air tankers that over the last 9 years have been waiting for the US Air Force to convert them into retardant-dropping air tankers.

CAL FIRE Director Joe Tyler told Fire Aviation in March that the incorporation of the seven former Coast Guard C-130 aircraft into the state’s air tanker fleet might be pushed back to 2024 due the pandemic/endemic and supply chain issues. This is in spite of the agency’s efforts in attempting to facilitate movement in the project. He said they had hoped to see some of the C-130s flying on fires this year. CAL FIRE is working with the Coast Guard, the Air Force, and the contractor who will install the retardant delivery system, Coulson Aviation.

California Conservation Corps (CCC) and California Military Department (CMD) Hand Crews 
Appropriated is $104 million and 238 positions starting now, and $50 million and 270 positions phased in over five years. Eight additional year-round hand crews will be added and 16 seasonal hand crews will be converted to year-round.

Four existing seasonal CAL FIRE/CCC hand crews will convert to year-round staffing in July 2022 and the personnel for the remaining two transitioned seasonal hand crews will be hired beginning January 2023. On these hand crews, two temporary Fire Captains (FC) per hand crew are replaced by three permanent FCs and three new FAEs are added to each hand crew. In total, 18 FCs and 18 FAEs will staff all six hand crews.

Ten existing seasonal CMD hand crews will be converted to year-round and four year-round CMD hand crews will be added for statewide response and fuels reduction projects.

Engines and Dozers
$36 million will be used to acquire surge capacity fire engines and bulldozers. This will add two additional engines in each of the 21 Units and six contract counties, plus 10 additional bulldozers. These resources will be available to be staffed during times of resource drawdown and critical fire activity.

Approximately $9 million will be used to hire support staff for the Firehawk program and positions for the contract EU helicopters,

July through December Fire Protection Augmentation
One-time funding of $83.1 million General Fund is available to augment fire protection resources from July through December 2022 given trends associated with climate change and current drought conditions, increasing fire severity and size, and declining inmate camp populations. It will be used to extend the staffing of 16 additional CAL FIRE firefighter hand crews through December 2022, plus support staff and training.

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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.

13 thoughts on “CAL FIRE to add more firefighters, engines, dozers, and helicopters”

  1. Hello, I have been reviewing your website and it appears that you have a lot of knowledge and have been in the fire game for a while. I would love any advice, guidance, or tips you may have regarding job applications – thank you.
    I recently applied for the July  FF1 position with CalFire two days ago and the deadline to apply is July 22. Their website states they will start hiring as soon as August 8th. I have no knowledge of their hiring process other then an oral interview but their website provides little insight into the actual process. I am considered Category 2 or partially trained.

    I have the following certifications
        ⁃    WCFT-level A (pack test)
        ⁃    S-130
        ⁃    S-190
        ⁃    L-180
        ⁃    IS-700
        ⁃    IS-200
        ⁃    IS-800
        ⁃    IS-100
        ⁃    BLS Card
        ⁃    EMT 180 Hour Training Certification
    – All fema certifications they require
    I am currently studying for MY NREMT but have no license as of now. I have also volunteered as a firefighter/EMT for 6 months.
    Calfire’s minimum requirement is to be 18 years at time of appointment. Should I expect to hear back from them?  If so, how long does the process take from the first call for an interview to my first shift? What should I expect for a work schedule and off time? Should I be calling stations that I am interested in and telling them that I submitted an application so that my name gets around?
    Thank you so much, I would appreciate any help or insight you can provide. If you have any knowledge on my questions, please feel free to email me:
    Thank you for your time.

  2. Jess
    Regarding communication, when I use to review incidents accidents and injuries it 99% of the time it had a failure in the communication that lead to it. You are right on ! In law enforcement, military operations and fire service without the foundation, communication you are going to have trouble. It should be always at the top of the list !

  3. Bill – is there any research or effort underway to equip dozers with remote control so they can be operated by driver at safe distance? Dozer operator could stand 50 yards from machine, do all the same operations as if in the machine, but with much less risk from rollover or risk that with operating dozer in rugged terrain. Just curious if this has been considered.

  4. It sounds like a good start, maybe it will catch on to the rest of the Nation’s Fire Protection.

    1. Communications is top of the list. No communications up and down the ladder = Chaos, loss of life, loss of property loss of control.

  5. “Four existing seasonal CAL FIRE/CCC hand crews will convert to year-round staffing in July 2022 and the personnel for the remaining two transitioned seasonal hand crews will be hired beginning January 2023.
    On these hand crews, two temporary Fire Captains (FC) per hand crew are replaced by three permanent FCs and three new FAEs are added to each hand crew. In total, 18 FCs and 18 FAEs will staff all six hand crews.”

    Oh, my word. X)

  6. Cal Fire’s Emergency Command Center’s are being ovetlooked and need to add 10 additional Communication Operators and a Computer Aided Dispatch Administrator per Command Center.

    1. Agree 100%, Jim. I was a ECC watch officer for two years – worst job I ever had in the outfit. We were dispatching for three county departments, and doing EMS for three counties as well. We were also dispatching Schedule B – i.e., state funded fire resources on State Responsibility area. It was a real pressure cooker with not near enough folks to make the job a little easier. Day staffing was two dispatcher/clerks and two Fire Captains. Night staffing was one dispatcher/clerk and one Fire Captain. Fire Captains were working a 3 1/2 – 2 1/2 – three and a half days on followed by two and a half days on with the Captain going off at 2000, after aircraft shut down for the day. the two and a half wasn’t too bad but the three and a half was a real killer. Many times I left the ECC and made the one hour drive home and upon getting home could not remember anything about the drive – I basically dozed all the way home.

  7. Makes me wish I was back in the organization rather than an old man retired out. It’s an exciting time for a young man or woman to be part of Cal Fire . Cal Fire now is getting the tools and the leadership to get the job done. It’s too bad that the C-130 program is behind. Hopefully that will begin to bear fruit in the not too distant future.

  8. A lot of folks will be taking their federal severance, err, umm, backpay supplement payment and jumping ship to a better funded and better led organization.

    1. Correct. I am looking at it as a severance as well and have every intention of peacing out since they made it a “spot award” and not part of your annuity calculates salary.

      Buh Bye.


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