Transition of federal wildland firefighters to new position descriptions encounters difficulties

OPM requires that it be complete by June, 2023

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Wildland firefighters
Wildland firefighters. USFS image.

Legislation that passed in 2021 required that federal wildland firefighters be offered the opportunity to move from their present job series, such as Forestry Technician, into a new series configured specifically for wildland firefighters. This would affect employees in five agencies, Forest Service (FS), Bureau of Land Management, Fish and Wildlife Service, Bureau of Indian Affairs, and National Park Service. 

Groups have been working on building the blueprint for the new system — which requires selecting a job series, writing position descriptions (PDs), and classifying those PDs by assigning a grade level for each position description. The last step would be making a decision about the pay at each grade level. 

Job Series

Most federal wildland firefighters up through the GS-9 or 11 level have been in the GS-0462 Forestry Technician series. The federal agencies have decided that instead of creating a new wildland firefighter series they would just modify one that has not been used much for about 50 years, the Wildland Fire Management GS-0456 series. 

The revised classification standards for the series were published in June 2022 and now the agencies have one year from that date to implement the “new” series.

The Office of Personnel Management (OPM) describes it, in part:

“This series includes classes of positions which involve technical and specialized work in the protection of forest or range lands and resources from fire. This series includes general fire management work which is preparatory to the assumption of technical or specialized assignments, and which is accomplished as a part of specialized functional fire management programs including forest and range fire prevention, presuppression, suppression, postsuppression, fire research, and other specialized work relating to fire management programs.”

Right now the agencies are tasked with working with two groups, human resource managers and subject matter experts, to develop position descriptions that accurately reflect the jobs performed in 2022. They are also classifying each PD and assigning a grade level that will affect pay. They also have to evaluate all 286 of the PDs to determine whether they will  qualify for firefighter retirement coverage. In a perfect world the refreshed PDs would describe what the employees actually do at that level, and the GS grade would be correctly and impartially assigned without bias or a preconceived agenda.

We have been in contact with several people who are closely involved with this process. One of them told us that the old GS-0462 PDs were basically copied and pasted into the new GS-0456 series with a few additional duties added. We were told that the FS Washington Office liaison for this project simply transferred the old point scores for grade determinations into the new GS-0456 series. There appears to be strenuous resistance to including duties in the PDs that would result in their being scored at a higher grade. 

On August 31 the FS held an online briefing for some of its employees in the Western U.S. called “FAM to Boots,” with “FAM” meaning Fire and Aviation Management. One of the speakers during the one-hour call was Ben Elkind, a smokejumper who would fall into the “boots” category but was serving as a representative of the union, the National Federation of Federal Employees (NFFE). He has been involved in the process of transitioning to the new firefighter job series, including reviews of the PDs and classification.

“Over the next few meetings we learned that the process was basically a crosswalk,” Mr. Elkind said in the call. “I think a lot of people were expecting to get a higher grade or to have new duties added to their PDs. But what we were told is that the PDs are not changing grades, and that’s the direction from the Washington Office. As well as keeping the grades the same, they’re attaching the grades to the PDs to send them to classifications. So they’re not independently grading them. They’re just looking at the grade that is attached to them and stamping that grade on there. We’re just kind of wondering why aren’t they following a process independently and letting people grade these without kind of pre-setting the grades.”

“We’re debating internally whether or not to continue our participation,” Mr. Elkind continued. “We don’t want our participation seen as like a stamp of approval. And just to give an example of the grades, right? The Forest Service makes the grades, like a hotshot superintendent, 2,100 points would be required for the next grade up, and they’re scored it at 2,090. So less than half a percent holds them back from getting an upgrade. This is the kind of stuff that we’re concerned about, and it seems like they’re working backwards — the grades are set and then they’re just making a PD to match, and then they’re grading it arbitrarily to match what they want.”

Wildfire Today communicated with Morgan Thomsen, who is also participating in the process as a representative of the union. He speaks not for the union, but as a union rep.  

“My biggest concern and reticence to remain involved in this process, is that the Washington Office management (not the FAM subject matter expert folks) are choosing to use terms like “may” in these PDs to willfully avoid any sort of meaningful classification,” Mr. Thomsen said.As an example: the new Interagency Hotshot Crew Superintendent PD states that a Superintendent “MAY” perform as a Branch Director or Operations Section Chief. Another PD says: “MAY perform qualifications on red card.” While this is true, we certainly “may” and certainly do; I am a GS-7 doing Division Supervisor trainee. No PD even requires Division Supervisor below the Assistant Fire Management Officer level. Instead of trying to copy/paste 0462 PDs and sneaking in more duties using the term “may” as a cop-out, we might as well just be real here, go back to the drawing board, and produce some PDs that will actually work for the coming decades.”


The temporary pay increase funded by a specific Congressional limited appropriation is expected to last through September 2023. Beyond that, firefighters’ pay would regress to the previous paltry amounts, unless a permanent fix is developed by Congress or the agencies develop a new special rate pay. 

Brian Rhodes, who was also on the call,works in the FS Washington Office and has a major role in the transition to the new series. He spoke for an extended time, but while verbally dancing around the issue of a long-term pay increase, he would not divulge what was being considered. 


As it stands now, fire dispatchers are being reviewed for inclusion in the 0456 job series, but they could elect to remain in the 0462 series. Mr. Rhodes said at one point that OPM did not believe dispatchers “met the major duties of a wildland firefighter.” He said the FS hopes to revisit that decision with OPM. 

At the end of the presentations in the FAM to Boots call, a dispatch center manager brought up the subject, saying “It’s a really big deal to us, [and, if it is not resolved soon] we’re going to have people walking out the door, people that have been with us for years that have dedicated their lives to the safety of all of our firefighters. … I think we’re an integral part of keeping people safe and making stuff happen. I don’t want my group to be an afterthought.”

“Hire to retire”?

There is an understanding among firefighters that one of the goals of the new job series was that a person could remain in the series from “hire to retire.” But there are indications that it will top out at the GS-9 level. One of the many issues that leads to difficulty in retaining experienced firefighters is that when they become a GS-7 or GS-8 they look up and see a narrowing career ladder with no room for them. That can lead them to quit, and they take their existing qualifications over to CAL FIRE or state or local fire departments, often doubling or tripling their pay.

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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.

54 thoughts on “Transition of federal wildland firefighters to new position descriptions encounters difficulties”

  1. Can’t tell you how much I feel for you guys!! It’s not right but, not surprising. These bureaucrats could mess up a one car funeral.

  2. Feels like the agency wants the work force to quit. All there is to it. Just one beat down after the other

  3. The Forest Service is a sinking ship. Only a few more years to go. 25 in at 47 leaves me plenty of time to grow up and become a real firefighter. I’ll happily take my quals, experience, knowledge and dedication where it’s appreciated.

  4. More ammunition for those that believe that the gummint should be turned over to “private enterprise.”

  5. Despite how the federal government fails its employees, I’ve seen how the private sector fights fire and I’m not interested. For profit business has no place in this industry, not in a country where regulation always take a back seat to maximizing profit. They offer the cheapest possible product they can get away with. Emergency response should not have a profit motive. Take a look no further than your fire lunches. If you IA a fire do you want a contract engine or a green truck showing up? You want to fire off 6 miles of a division at PL5 with a hotshot crew or a contract hand crew?

    Not bashing the contract world but it does have a lot of big picture ethical issues and still lacks the capacity and capabilities in terms of training and resource qualifications.

  6. Nobody believes that and it would never happen in R5. Contractors can be beneficial for mop up because it frees up green resources to make real progress. Other than that, they are a liability.

  7. Wow, I truly hope this is a joke or a troll aimed to incite. As a career long primary firefighter The support dispatch provides is invaluable and their presence and ability to support us is dwindling as they suffer an even higher brain drain and retention situation than primary Fire. These people deserve dignity and recognition for their contribution to the firefighting effort. My hope is that a rising tide raises all ships. It should be noted that Grassroots Wildland Firefighters continues to actively advocate for dispatchers in DC and the agencies acknowledge that failing to include them in a new job series will be detrimental to recruitment and retention efforts for this mission critical job.

  8. Sorry, no. Their constant complaining about not being included in the wildland firefighter series is partially preventing us from getting our new PDs and our pay.

    Police dispatchers are not considered police. Medical dispatchers are not considered paramedics. Why should wildland fire be different. I have yet to hear a good answer.

  9. I think you are wrong. Even federal structure firefighters 0081 have dispatchers in their series (I believe)

    Cal Fire dispatchers get the firefighter retirement.

    This series is a Wildland fire management series. Lots of ops from air tankers to IAs can’t be done without properly qualified dispatchers present.

    I’m no dispatcher just some USFS FF, but I believe this is the case

  10. Good points there, NoFunSuns. If someone applies for a job as a wildland fire dispatcher, they’re required to show experience as a firefighter. Firefighters are not expected to demonstrate experience as a dispatcher, though. Maybe someone will reconsider these two items?

  11. My agency is taking active, furtive steps to defraud us. I will take the “incentive pay” till Sept 2023 and the. I’ll take my quals, training and skills to an agency that will at least pay me.

    Done with the FS!

  12. NoFunSuns,

    1) That is just not true. Dispatchers hired under the 0462 series are required to have fire experience. Anecdotally, nearly all the ones where I work have active redcard quals as well and I’ve been on fire assignments with several of them.

    2) Dispatchers “constantly complaining” has nothing to do with your PDs or pay. Not an iota, none of the mechanisms holding it up have even factored them. They were orginally not even considered. The PDs are holding up the PDs. They are a trainwreck, and unless you wanna faff around with 20 years of desk audits? You might as well wait. All you’re getting right now is 462 PD that should have been spell checked better.

    3) I dunno where you work, Alaska I assume? But where I work, I don’t want dispatch to be a revolving door operation. Where they can’t find anyone to work there and I get to open a ticket up if I have an emergency in the middle of the night, because they all got stuck under a clerical series and don’t have to staff past 8 hours. You think about that? They deserve better.

  13. I did 4 years with the feds (FS, NPS, and USFWS) ended with a dead end GS4 subject to furlough DOI position (but its permanent!!!). Quit for a year to do non fire work and then came back with a state fire agency. 23 bucks an hour starting pay, year round work, take home truck, 25 year retirement, sleeping in my own bed almost every night. The application process was pretty extensive but it doesn’t require any quals to start, some guys hired with me didn’t even have 130/190… I had a ton of fun and met some awesome people on the fed side, but man are the guys and gals above me in my current agency in such a better place after 15 or 20 years, they are happy, have nice houses and families. They actually get to live a life outside of fire. I don’t have the solutions, but I know the current fed system is broken beyond repair at this point from what I have seen. These temporary band aid solutions just seem to string people along who are hoping for a better tomorrow. I do hope it gets better, but I can’t recommend looking elsewhere enough, yeah the jobs might have some extra responsibilities and a longer application process but I sure wish I had made the jump sooner.

  14. You didn’t even waste much time before jumping ship. I’m 8 years in, perm with the feds and ready to leave. It’s really disappointing, but I feel bad recruiting people to work for the fed fire agencies now. Around every corner there is a way we get screwed.

  15. I am actually a seasonal perm dispatcher in an interagency center, and I’m intrigued at the different arguments against us and in our defense.

    I want to say this; I heard the “maybes” but unlike many, didn’t get my hopes up for any sort of change, so then, when my pay stayed the same- I was neither disappointed nor surprised.

    My fiancé has been on a hotshot crew the last few seasons and is now a smokejumper- our work is and always has been very different, but “different” DOES NOT = harder or easier.

    He, and most of our other friends tell me every time they stop at the center or need “paperwork” from us, tell me time and time again that “they could never do what we do.”

    And that is very true. However, I HAVE done what you do.

    I am so tired of the constant reaming of dispatch.

    Police dispatchers get the same pay fairness as police and city guys. Wildland should too.

    Y’all do a lot to keep us all safe, but we do so much to provide that for you as well. Wishing peace for all. We just want to do what we love and get paid what we deserve for it.

  16. 100% dispatchers deserve the pay increase and benefits that Fire gets. Half of our dispatchers came from fire due to injury or family needs anyway.

  17. Interesting article! I’m not surprised that they copied and pasted the PDs. Maybe they did it, because they were under time restrains or maybe they did it, because they are lazy or they just don’t care. Who knows! But the optics don’t look good.

    The other thing I noticed, they have to be finished by June and the money runs out in September 2023. Hum? 4 months? Not really sure what to say about that!

    As for the comments, dispatch is very important and should be paid more. But, they probably won’t, because it’s management’s belief that dispatchers are considered “broken men” or “old women”. Dispatchers are firefighters too. They have to have the same quals, but since the job has been historically a women’s job…there are people who believe that women should not be paid as much as men. I don’t want to get into trouble, but look around you. The pay gap is real and as you get older you are not guaranteed a raise. In fact, as you get older you are probably going to make less. I wish I knew that 40 for women is old. The pay gap is real. Institutional discrimination is real too.

    As for the comments about leaving…I have to admit the first time I read it, I was like leave so we can take your job. But, I understand the frustration. It took 6 months to go thru the hiring process and it was not easy. 6 months for a GS-5. Yes, it’s not easy for a perm GS-12 to come back as a term GS-5, but we need the money. And I guess, that’s what it comes down to…money. Yes, morale at the NPS and FS is down and things are looking pretty bad, but people need the money. I just wish the GS-12s that aren’t doing much could understand what’s really going on.

    Oh, and for the person who said all ships rise…you are assuming that all of us can afford a ship. Most of us are treading water…or drowning!

    Oh, and Grassroots doesn’t do ….

    And on that happy note, have a great week-end! Peace Out!!!

  18. Fire lookouts are being overlooked in a similar way as dispatchers. Throwing someone without any experience or training into a lookout tower causes problems, while having someone who knows the land and their craft well can make a world of difference. Fire lookouts are being completely written out this job series process. Those who have dedicated their lives to operating lookout towers do not appreciate it. Although we realize most of us are not boots on the ground fire fighters, we are part of the wildland fire team. The lack of recognition for what it takes to do the job of a lookout well has once again pushed us to the fringes of the wildfire world, like our exclusion from IQCS, diminishing our standing further.

  19. Your fiancé has to worry about being killed on the job, constantly! You do not. A HUGE difference.

  20. Do you have to worry about being killed on the job every shift? Smoked by a snag, burned over, smoke inhalation and a resultant slow, painful cancerous death? Nope!

  21. My district has 8 resignations in two months. Cal Fire, DOD, Municipal. Taking their bonus money and running. Who can blame them. FS is a sinking ship. Morale is as low as I have ever seen it. Fire hire lasts all year long. Get out while the getting is good, because like always these are just bandaids. They will never fix the real problem. But never point these things out to higher management or you will end up in the shit house with me. Soon to be getting off the train to nowhere.

  22. Jim, I’ve worked in dispatch and in the field and in both cases I was very concerned about being killed. In one of my offices we had an active shooter incident. In the field, I dealt with mountain lions, bears, snakes, rats, scorpions, falling trees, visitors, and jerks who thought it was funny to pee on me. In both the office and the field I had to deal with harassment and sexual assaults. As for cancer, dispatchers deal with that too. Many women dispatchers get lung or breast cancer from the the smoke and the chemicals at the helipads. In Region 3, they were firing women who got cancer. A friend of mine died from cancer that she got while working in fire/dispatch. The people in dispatch have to go out on fires. 90-day qual. The difference between being on a fire and dispatch…we don’t always see what you see…and that leaves us feeling very helpless at times. And it does not help that we are the ones planning y’all funerals on top of all the other work we have to do. In one day, I tracked helicopters, stopped 5 men from burning up a interstate highway, planned 2 funerals, and completed some completely useless training that was required of me. Jim, I think you should go work in dispatch for a day, so that you can realize what’s really going on in there. Dispatchers need to be paid well. They work very hard and very long hours. They are the first to arrive and the last to leave and many do not count all their extra hours. Many do not get overtime or hazard pay and they have to deal with jerks… They are the ones who spend their own money to bring in cookies and they do countless jobs, like plan birthday parties and Christmas parties. That’s not our job people!!! I watch as a woman in dispatch worked countless hours and was past over for a raise time and time, so that her boss could give the raise to a guy who went hunting with him. Dispatchers are treated with disrespect…I wonder what would happen if all the dispatchers went on strike or was sick on the same day. How would y’all survive? Who would get your coffee? Watch the helicopters? Move teams from place to place? Who would run the models? Who would get the weather reports? Fix your computers? Fix the printer? Make spreadsheets? And complete your NEPA work? Dispatchers are very important. They deserve a raise!!!

  23. These bureaucrats keep messing with their workforce they better watch out. Congress made it clear that we were underpaid, Biden slammed his fist on a table and called our pay ridiculous, Secretary Vilsack just said our pay was inequitable… So the USFS people that are blocking this can play the delay game, but that only works if they can outlast the administration. Sometimes the people blocking progress just get fired. Keep the pressure up.

  24. Militia are Firefighters as well and the agency could not conduct a p-burn program without them and certainly could not suppress the nations wildfires without them. In many instances, militia firefighters are more qualified on the line than primary and secondary fire personnel. Some secondary personnel who received the 20k payment do not even hold a red card!! The agency slapped the milita through the face while many primary positions set idle during periods of low fire activity. As a matter of fact, many primary positions refuse to dispatch outside of their home unit. Militia does many other duties and picks up fire when it occurs. If primary positions want the pay of a GS 11 they should have collateral duties in their PD during periods of low fire danger…just like militia does.

  25. We do, its called other duties as assigned. Which is anything from picking up trash, clearing trails and campgounds for Rec, helping build/repair fence for Range, painting timber for Timber etc… the list goes on. At least here where im at we do all sorts of other projects on top of fire, prescribed fire and hiring….

  26. Who can afford to dedicate their life as a career GS-5 lookout? Most the lookouts in SoCal are volunteers. Our fires are mostly human caused and reported by the public. There is minimal need to staff lookouts here. Maybe they are more useful in the timber when looking for a single tree strike… providing you have a competent lookout. But lookouts are NOT firefighters and do not deserve fire pay.

  27. You must not work in R5. We do not have any militia firefighters. We can’t even get recreation to clean bathrooms let alone help us with a prescribed burn. If you want fire pay then work in FIRE.

  28. Meanwhile me in R8 looking at other agencies pay and seeing how state folks don’t even get overtime and scratching my head a bit. Guess it’s not comparatively bad over on the fed side everywhere. Then again cost of living is way less. Before the pay bump, and even after it no way I could afford to live in most districts in the mountain west unless I want to live out of a truck. So higher pay is clearly needed if they want people to do the job in a lot of localities. The pay has to handle cost of living at least to make it worth while.

    I will rant on the militia issue a bit. They can play me the worlds smallest violin over not getting the pay bump. For decades non fire positions had higher GS levels and got them faster than primary fire. It’s fun being the overhead on a crew roll as a gs5 and being the lowest paid guy there. The shoe is on the other foot and now it’s an insult I guess? It’s always been optional work so if the circumstances are no longer make sense by all means turn in the line gear. If Fire can’t meet targets without militia, oh well. Maybe they will staff the fire shop like they should have to begin with and like the rest of the country is that isn’t r8 and r9. Really though every field going employee could use a pay bump, but again the fed side is wildly better paid than most state agencies and the nonprofit sector in resource management jobs. Most state DNR types are paid next to nothing and if you work in wildlife management that fact alone is supposed to make it ok to have you work for free the first few years at least.

  29. Had to go on an IA yesterday afternoon so wasn’t able to finish this article until today, Sat Sept 3rd.
    I’m glad I waited to read it. Mainly because of the 30 comments left by fellow readers and reading their thoughts and what they thought. I always gain more by listening (or reading) what people are thinking.
    First off…Jim Jacobs….not sure who you are, where you are from, who you work for, your experience level, years on the job, etc etc etc….but, you are an jacka**
    Who do you think you are bashing dispatchers or anyone you happen to disagree with, by saying something along the lines of “can they die by a falling snag…” Get the F out of here. If it wasn’t for the people who work in dispatch, that when you get to a fire and request whatever you might need, you get it. (Unless we are at a PL5) I’m seriously hoping that you aren’t in anyway overhead in any capacity. If you were the one cleaning the blue rooms, I feel that would be still to much responsibility for someone who is as arrogant and disgusting as anyone I can recall posting here. To say to someone about her loved one “Your fiancé has to worry about being killed on the job, constantly. You do not. A HUGE difference.” So that worry doesn’t transfer over to someone who works with and around fire and knows the danger? So, that dispatcher isn’t allowed to make friends with fellow firefighters on the district and if something happens to the firefighter, it doesn’t effect that (those) dispatchers? Those dispatchers aren’t “worthy” enough to be paid their worth in your eyes? God I’d love to meet up with you…

    As far as the rest of the 29 comments…Go and read each one…a common theme pops out…discord amongst each one that has posted, bitching about another group, contractors, lunches, state, local blah blah blah….no wonder this program is falling apart. We can’t even support each other. We can’t even come together to take a stand and say, bullshit, each and every person employed by USFS, DOI, working in fire in some form or another, gets paid to work in fire.
    The lack of support and the total bickering leads me to believe that we are worse off then I thought. Together we are stronger. But reading the comments, I do believe we are weaker.
    Some say, ya, I’m done with the feds, I’m going to the state or local department. That’s great. Go. Do good. Improve yourself and your life and families. That’s what we all want. Some can’t leave and make that transition to the “other side” But, as you go, don’t bash those that stay and are hoping for the best. The best for them, their families and their future.

  30. I’ve never seen a comment that bashed every other comment. Don’t take all the internet talk so seriously. We have plenty of dedicated folks working to improve pay for all employees. I’m confident better times are ahead for all employees.

    We need to stop talking about OT and H pay. The second you get hurt your H pay is gone and same with your OT. Neither count for workers comp or retirement. Non-fire says a GS6 makes more than a GS9 due to OT+H pay. But many fire folks would take the GS9/11 and skip the OT.

    There is a bit of division between non fire vs fire because average fed employee is a GS12 while average Wildland Firefighter is a GS5. They try to say that fire gets OT, but too much OT is a burden itself, and it’s expensive to be gone a lot as a GS5 with kids at home.

    Let’s get everyone to the GS12 mark. And then let’s go from there. People now are desperate and they had some hope that is now very dimmed when we see the USFS/DOI disregard for the new series that Congress and OPM created.

    We need to stop any infighting. The problem now isn’t OPM, it’s not Congress, not the white house, it’s very clearly the USFS and DOI. They are blocking progress and dismissing the direction from the white house, OPM, and Congress.

  31. There is room for both contract and government resources. As a catering crew boss, I worked for an owner that worked hard to bring quality services. We were among the best. The difference was ownership cared about advancing talented people. The downside is contract workers have the same grievances. There are no decent benefits in contract fire for most workers. Those contracted type 2 crews play a vital role in freeing up resources. Support would fail miserably without contractors. I spent many fires without showers, phones, water, fuels, transport, initial attack and air. We were all needed and still are. This internal struggle trying to get Government crews decent pay and benefits is an embarrassment. Most contractors find out sooner or later that you must support your people. The Government needs to learn that still.

  32. Amen. We all understand needing to use economy of force and resources, but that attitude has killed so many brothers and sisters from Storm King to Yarnell. So many people could have been saved had the attitude been to utilize what was available as soon as it was made available. Instead we do it with as little as we can get away with and underpay resources as a matter of operating principle. The day of reckoning with the issue is here.

  33. SR,
    You did an exceedingly poor job of convincing me with specious and even far fetched arguments.

  34. There is room for both contract and government resources. As a catering crew boss, I worked for an owner that worked hard to bring quality services. We were among the best. The difference was ownership cared about advancing talented people. The downside is contract workers have the same grievances. There are no decent benefits in contract fire for most workers. Those contracted type 2 crews play a vital role in freeing up resources. Support would fail miserably without contractors. I spent many fires without showers, phones, water, fuels, transport, initial attack and air. We were all needed and still are. This internal struggle trying to get Government crews decent pay and benefits is an embarrassment. Most contractors find out sooner or later that you must support your people. The Government needs to learn that still.

  35. U may, but most do not. Even cal-fire won’t transition us to positions we’re already qualified for! I get protocol changes training, or even a short probationary transition. Thing is most of us are over qualified for our current positions, so to down grade or wait till someone dies or quits to elevate into a position ur fully able to preform on ur own is extremely difficult. Tho I do love ur openness to accepting us, but with our politics within the fire world, it just won’t be a widely open sentiment! Also most of us work in the forest for a reason, we like fire and don’t play well with others. Makes it hard to go into medical and fire in a box! Not knocking it, it’s where I started, yet that’s why I got out, not enough variants or response change. I fight fire as red we may never see fire….just a fact of the service. Green, Red, Piss Green, or yellow once u get fire in u ur stuck, well payed or free, just to be near it all. There are just way to many politics to allow any of to trully enjoy our jobs as brothers, and be compensated enough to actually make a comfortable living. ITS SAD HONESTLY, WE ALL DO IT FOR OUR LOVE OF WHAT WE DO NOT THE PAY, BUT REALLY, SHOULDNT WE ALL BE EQUALLY SECURE AND CONFIDENT IN PROVIDEING FOR OUR FAMILIES..

  36. Not all of R8 has a low cost of living. I’m in Charleston and really regretting leaving Washington for lower quality of living at a higher cost. But you’re on point with the state agencies, I don’t see how anybody does that job in the south for the peanuts they pay. Most of them in SC are part time from what I’ve seen and are on call to respond from their real jobs.

  37. Jim, it’s not my job to convince you. I don’t care what you think. Your comment, “Do you have to worry about being killed on the job every shift?” is rude and insensitive and should be removed. Many women who have lost their sons, brothers, fathers, fiances, and husbands read Wildfire Today. One, word, Yarnell. If that doesn’t convince you nothing will. Dispatcher are firefighter. We take the same training. 90-day quals. We know about snags, burn overs, smoke inhalation and a resultant slow, painful cancerous death. I have over 27 years of experience and I don’t care that you think my arguments are specious and even far fetched. They happened. Just because you haven’t experienced something doesn’t mean it hasn’t happen to other people. One day maybe you’ll fall in love and realize that when you love someone you worry about them more than you worry about yourself. I hope one day you take my advice and go work in dispatch and learn how hard it really is. To my friends in dispatch, good luck and I hope y’all get a raise too.

  38. Don’t care if dispatchers get 100x paid more than I and are titled “Superior beings in whichfirefighters need to exist technicians” amd only required to work 10hrs a week from home or whatever. Same goes for if they made some kind of a Militia incentive makes it 10x more lucrative to go out to an RX burn once a spring than being a hotshot suit for an entire season.

    Zero care….I care about MY pay, MY work life balance, MY own issues as a firefighter. Thats it. Nor do I expect them to give one iota of concern about my pay etc…

    This “one team one fight blah blah blah” is BS and we all know it.

    I’ve literally watched most of the rest the agency make twice as much teleworking and really not accomplishing much over the last 3 years. Good on them. I dont care if I’ve “done more” “been in more danger” “sacrificed more” etc than “them”.

    Do I want more for myself and my fellow ground pounding firefighters? Yes…am I going to point at others pay and their work to get it? NO. We shouldn’t…..and they shouldn’t.

    Do Dispatchers, lookouts, and militia deserve more…IMO hell yeah. Is it really any of my concern? Nah…..

  39. SR- I have read your comments on this site for many months. You have described numerous and pervasive problems the likes of which I’ve never experienced. I’ve done my multiple decades of fire. You’ve been asked to provide details or more information and responded with more horror stories.

    It could be that you are in fact an aggrieved former GS12 who simply can’t get hired (at any level during a time of record vacancies) because you’re being discriminated against, a rock star legacy employee who we should also listen to and learn from. Or it could be that you’re simply an Internet troll. (In which case I regret feeding the troll by responding to another of your diatribes)

    One old parable comes to mind- if you encounter a jerk on your way to the grocery you could be having a bad day. If the only people you ever meet are jerks maybe some self reflection is in order. Could be YOU are the problem.

    And for whatever it’s worth, the dispatch community needs to be recognized for their outstanding contributions to the larger wildfire system. They are a huge part of our community and should be given more respect. (Your comments although well intentioned we’re demeaning- ‘who will get your coffee?’)

    Finally GRWFF have done more in the last 2 years than anyone I’ve seen in my career. These are tireless volunteers who are working at high levels to address the problem. They are worthy of our thanks and the LBE award they received recently demonstrates it.

  40. I never said it wasn’t different. It IS very huge in difference.

    However, I’ve had my share of “worrying about getting killed on the job” as a shot and I am here now, in Dispatch, with redcard quals still current, along with new ones that come with the logistic side of things- quals required of me to have in order to keep things running smoothly and safely for Aircraft, Crews, Engines & many other resources.

    The pay doesn’t make a huge difference in MY life personally, but I will sit here and defend dispatch to no end, especially when it comes to not being able to retain our seasonals, (who are incredibly important to our MO, believe it or not.)

    I cannot compare dispatch to boots-on-the-ground experience, but it is hard, exhausting and tedious work; and contrary to popular belief it’s NOT “just sitting in an office twiddling our thumbs all day.”

    Your fuel, your supplies, your resource orders, your fire calls, your injuries, your emergencies, your meals, WOULD NOT exist without the assist of dispatch.

    if 911/city/county resources alike, hell, even mining dispatch, can get the same benefits as THEIR boots who “worry about getting killed constantly,” wildland fire dispatch should be no different.

    And no, no one in dispatch “complaining” is holding you back from “getting your slice of pie.” We are a team. Don’t let this turn you bitter and get on board with the poor man’s war against the poor man.

    We may not be on the same ship but we are in the same storm and it’s important we all acknowledge the efforts that each other make in order to keep each other safe and happy.

  41. Most militia pay is better than fire.. lol. In almoat every region except 5 militia firefighters include GS9,11, 12 and even 13. These folks are willing to do more than FIRE and are paid for it. The answer to this issue is to eliminate primary fire positions. Go back to the old days where positions are multiple resource.

  42. In R8 the fire shop will not conduct a p burn without militia let alone contain the wildfires. In most areas of R8 when a wildfire occurs, the fire shop stands next to an engine while the timber markers scout line and a milita employee who is actually carded as a DIVS or ICT3 is making the calls. FIRE needs to learn that a primary position in FIRE does not qualify you on the line. In every region of the nation the fire danger is not high year round.However, across the US while fire danger is low the timber markers, rec shop, trails folks and everyone else heads to the woods daily while fire says they have to “check their equipment and do PT” yet when a fire breaks in every region except region 5… its militia employees who hold most of the high qualifications. This whining and crying has to stop. You signed the line. You took the job knowing the pay. If you don’t like it pack you gear and hit the road. Then perhaps morale may improve. Have any of the primary position ever considered its the mindset in R5 that has got everyone to where we are today? Go get a job somewhere else that allows you to exercise an hour per day and see what they are willing to pay you. Or how about this..go to school and get a skill other than taking 30 hr ICS courses. Become a Biologist, Forester, an ecologist or botanist and get in the game making some real management decisions. Yes most militia got slapped in the face with this pay because they hold red cards as well and in many parts of the nation they fight as much or more fire than primary and secondary positions but they have other skills and most of the time it’s those other skills that give them the higher pay.

  43. If evwry gs 5 firefighter wants gs12 pay they should do gs12 work which means take responsibility for the p burn when it goes wrong, be the DIVS with 200 personnel on a line, be the Ops Chief on a Type 1 incident or how about this…..write the NEPA, sign the NEPA document, supervise 7 people, be responsible for hiring the employees who run the program, ensure the timber sale meets all agency guidelines for error, ensure the contract is legal. Bottom line is not every employee does GS12 work .

  44. Nobody is saying GS 5’s should get GS 12 pay. But there absolutely should not be a starting pay gap of $40,000 for entry level firefighters here in R5 between the USFS and CalFire. Nowhere else in the Nation are fed firefighters the bottom of the barrel. Other places may have shortages that seem like retention issues because covid has caused retention issues with every profession. But R5 has ALWAYS had issues because we are nothing but a stepping stone to higher pay.

  45. Guess what? I was a firefighter before I came to dispatch-as required-and far exceeded the 90-day requirement. It’s an extremely stressful and complex job and I have often been told by field resources that they would rather be physically exhausted than deal with the mental exhaustion that dispatchers deal with.

    We’re short staffed these days too because of poor leadership, crap Center Managers, on-call work for free, crap pay and burnout; because of that my center is staffed with unqualified newbies and seasoned dispatchers just waiting to get out. Now they want to take away 6C pay.

    Thoughts and prayers ya’ll because if losing 6C sticks, you aren’t going to have anybody to answer your radio calls or push your resource orders.

  46. I know quite a few GS6 DIVS and IC3s. Managing quite a bit on the fireline. It’s funny because you just explained perfectly the meritocracy bubble the USFS operates in. You have no regard for environmental exposure to injuries, fatalities, smoke and particulates causing cancer, PTSD, years as a temp without insurance or retirement benefits, and all the training and qualifications that go into doing our job.

    Nobody outside of USFS/DOI thinks we are fairly compensated. You’d rather watch it all burn down than let people you feel are below you earn a living wage, without regard to market compensation for our work or trades professions we are competing with. Wendy’s is starting people at $20/hour and if you think that $13.50/hour for a starting FF is acceptable or is gonna accomplish our staffing goals then you should be getting a random drug test soon.

    We can go build fences 3-4 days a week and bring in $100k/year and it’s funny because the response is always “if you don’t like it then leave,” but now the president and Congress don’t want us to leave, Actually.

    The reality is if the USFS and DOI doesn’t like us, then we’ll be working for a different agency for a lot more money pretty soon.

  47. Then go to CAL Fire. ..they kill a few every year and everyone knows they act like cowboys. I k ow Ops Chiefs that will not even return to Cali. The door swings both ways..

  48. Ha. I know GS7’s (plural) that are DIVS and RXB2 qualled that also write and edit NEPA docs. They are also COR’s etc etc…they do “GS12” work, whatever the eff that means. MOST GS12’s I know are non supervisory and do inconsequential and meaningless work.

  49. Dang, almost thought you got your hands on my resume but I’ve still got my DIVS training wheels on. Everything else applies though. Also have the requisite education. I just wish I could be good enough to be a GS12 someday.

  50. Someone help me out. So they don’t want to bump up the GS levels, but the end game (if more legislation is passed) is that the current GS levels would all make more than they do now… similar to how the GL scale is for law enforcement. If that’s the case (IF being the big word) then what is the union’s beef? If as a GS7 I get bumped to $30 instead of $20 per hour, I don’t really care that they’re not calling me a GS 8. Is there more to this that I’m missing?

  51. No fun suns,
    Wow, The ignorant comment of the year award goes to No fun suns! Have you ever worked a fire? How did you get there? How did you get what you needed? how did you get the help you needed and about 150 other jobs you have no clue about. I have over 20 years on the line as a firefighter and an additional 15 years as a dispatcher. When all the dispatchers nationally walk out on Sept 15th at PL-5 you will all see the value of dispatch. The real problem in you knuckles dragging crayons eaters need to spend 90 days in dispatch in the summer at PL-5 not just drop by and make a few stupid comments. Don’t worry next time you need food on the fire we will order you a big box of CRE Crayons Ready-to-Eat.

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