Today the Government Accountability Office released a report about the difficulties the federal agencies are having recruiting and retaining wildland firefighters.
Congress requested the report, but apparently did not ask for recommendations. The 41-page document identifies numerous issues that adversely affect recruitment and retention, most of which are already well known to the five agencies that employ wildland firefighters — Forest Service, Bureau of Land Management, National Park Service, Fish and Wildlife Service, and Bureau of Indian Affairs.
The report goes into detail about each of the major challenges, after receiving input from officials in the five agencies and a sample of 16 nonfederal stakeholders—including nongovernmental organizations representing active and retired federal firefighters and other organizations involved in firefighting issues, such as the National Association of State Foresters and the Western Governors’ Association.
Low pay was the most commonly cited barrier to recruiting and retaining federal wildland firefighters. Officials and all 16 stakeholders stated that the pay, which starts at $15 per hour for entry-level positions, is low. Officials and eight stakeholders also noted that the pay does not reflect the risk or physical demands of the work. Moreover, officials and stakeholders said that in some cases, firefighters can earn more at nonfederal firefighting entities or for less dangerous work in other fields, such as food service.
Some of the efforts being taken to improve hiring and retention are mentioned, including addressing pay, and offering slightly more time at home between fire assignments.
But much remains to be done, especially towards pay and a new Wildland Firefighter job series, which the five agencies have made very little progress developing.
Download the 41-page GAO report.
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53 thoughts on “GAO reports on barriers to recruitment and retention of federal wildland firefighters”
Here we go again….lots of chest pounding this Spring about this very specialized new fire series, increase in pay, better benefits, and we want a cake and parade.
I also recall on this forum lots of “we don’t need militia or ADs”….and surprise, surprise, yes you do.
Grassroots Fire shouldn’t of tried to go around their own agencies. Indeed it is specialized, highly skilled work, but a Forestry Technician job series is still appropriate so you don’t rathole such an enormous work force.
The art and science of forestry is multifaceted- some of us can build a bridge, cruise timber, pick up trash, issue a citation, band a hummingbird, AND work on the fire line right next to you.
You want to be in emergency response but live 2 hours away in an expensive city so you can have 6 breweries? Rent too high? Spouse doesn’t like living near the Ranger station? It’s called life choices people.
Good Luck with your cake.
Throw-together militia folk are very useful when extra bodies are needed, but are far outmatched by dedicated fire personnel in terms of operational knowledge and experience (with the exception of long-time firefighting personnel who move on to a cushier job). The government loves this “we can get a couple people to do everything!” mentality and it always fails miserably. As for the Grassroots slander and your bit about breweries, you’re talking nonsense and you know it.
@forestry Technician 4 Life, your concept of using AD’s and militia for response and support worked decades ago but times are different.
For just a moment, I dare you to pretend for that you need to rent a private residence in an isolated area near an out station. How many rental properties can you find within commuting distance near the Longbell Guard Station in CA? Oh and groceries, good luck, the grocery store is an hour away. That’s okay… I’ll send my wife since she can’t find a job out here and has a ton of free time. Wait, she filed for divorce last month so that’s not going to work.
The problem with your smug comments is employment shouldn’t making living more difficult. It’s a means for living life and we are making great life choices buddy, we’re choosing to leave this profession for a reason.
The knife that cuts the cake
When ever I read these comments it makes me hate my job and want to resign. SMH
I think there is a place for militia.
Especially with the complexity of fire and land management. And fire and fuels is a large part our everyday work at the FS.
I like to think that I do good work in my operational fire assignments, add value, and keep up. Sometimes it takes a few days for folks to sniff out I am non-fire primary.
But it would be silly for me to think I am as good and have as many fire slides as a primary firefighter. They have more reps, more time with learning and mentoring, more time together. But putting in a fuel break with a full array of logging equipment with a specific prescription, I might be able to pull that off better. Might.
Even from the outside, it is clear to me that wildland firefighting is a full time gig and all the time is needed for prep, learning, training, etc. There is no time for banding hummingbirds. Should an engine crew help with hazard trees once and a while or a handcrew do tree marking or trail work to contribute to the cause and build relationships with the rest of the District? Sure. But fire has work to do.
FT4L is not the spokesperson for militia (or non fire personnel with fire qualifications as the WO wants to call us because militia is a scary word) and neither am I.
Somebody needs to step up and represent their militia / collateral groups – like a grassroots for rec. Has that happened yet?
As the Exec Secretary for Grassroots Wildland Firefighters, I can tell you we’ve never gone around the agencies. We have monthly calls with FS WO and DOI Office of Wildland Firefighters. We know no progress would/could come without working with the agencies, not against them. So maybe don’t make assumptions and then talk about things you know nothing about. GRWFF has and continues to advocate for an expanded workforce that goes beyond just fire positions.
Speaking only for myself, I started out in timber but then decided to shift my career into full-time fire for a variety of reasons. We all have choices. And I do value the collateral duty folks (an alternate term to “militia”) and recognize their place in the effort. But the reality is that the vast majority of collateral duty folks can, and many do, say “no” to a fire assignment. You don’t have to miss out on family milestones (birthdays, anniversaries, family reunions, the birth of children). You don’t have to suck smoke all fire season and compromise your physical and mental health. You can choose to, but you don’t have to.
So tell me, who wants their cake and wants to eat it, too?
@Riva Duncan : Thanks for this clarification; agreed.
You’re clearly very triggered and butt hurt. Sounds like you made a poor life choice to not be in fire.
What a terrible take
@ Forestry Technician 4 Life Let me guess, you work trails?
Honestly, the trails crews are tougher than the fire crews these days.
The minimum wage in the State of California is $15/hr. So wildland firefighters are paid the same wage as a newly hired, unskilled worker…dishwashers, broom pushers, floor moppers, etc. That has to change.
Unfortunately your congressperson and senator are busy sending hundreds of billions of dollars to other countries as we speak. That will only change when our voting patterns change. Elections have consequences, so let’s start to make our politician’s votes consequential. We just voted and there was no huge shift change in DC. Your next chance to have an effect on DC will be in 2024. I hope you can hold on for two more years.
Thank you! 100% correct. Fast to send piles of cash to foreign lands and we get the inflation. The inflation has already stole your pay raise that is if you get it. “Annnnnnnd its gone”
Pay is certainly not exceptional and it never has been. Improvement is necessary in order to meet the demands of today’s workforce but I am constantly amazed at how many feel it must equal of exceed that of California, essentially a bankrupt state with excessive benefits and out of control spending. Try using the real world pay scales and benefits found in the other wildland fire states and the argument will likely garner more support.
California is often cited because that is where 50% of the USFS fire program resides. R5 is staffed around 60-65% this past year, and the fires there have some of the highest costs. When USFS firefighters leave the USFS, their #1 destination is Cal Fire. After that it is municipal departments in California. PG&E and Leaving the industry altogether are the other two options in the top 4.
Add to this data that Cal Fire is adding to their workforce over the next two-four years, going from 9,000 firefighters to 16,000. Where do you think those firefighters will come from?
Nobody is saying that we are going to match Cal Fire for wages, but there is a market for wildland firefighter services and the USFS has a responsibility to staff their lands and manage their fires.
Unitil last year, the USFS in California actually paid below the state minimum wage for their firefighters. Think about that. And we aren’t even talking about the normal contrast between gov vs private sector, we are talking about Gov vs Gov here and it isn’t even close.
I could keep going about other states as well, but to ignore California is just foolish.
This is a national issue absolutely. California always gets the fame but I’m in region 8 and can’t afford to buy a house with my income after 12 years in.
Also, we don’t have the retention issues here because we have a different issue. Lack of positions. We have 9 fire staff employees on the ENTIRE forest… talk about burnt out because there is no shortage of work. We’re very much the “do more with less” here in region 8. I cant rely on AD’s and militia anymore, it’s not their full time job and they have no idea WTF they are doing most of the time.
I have been hoping that grassroots would highlight this issue more, but it hasn’t happened. If anything is shows how the organization as a WHOLE has failed. Our countries landscape is changing and the south will burn down just as quick. We need to get ahead of the curve by getting more staff and the funding support.
Can we please get some more coverage on the lack of existing positions east of the Mississippi?
Who are you and where do you work? Without that information I can’t take your comments seriously. No frame of reference here to understand why you get on this site and say something like “ Try using the real world pay scales and benefits found in the other wildland fire states and the argument will likely garner more support. “
Seriously where you at / who are you? Russia? Honestly?
I am a 14 year forestry tech, acting as a wildland firefighter, I live in a tourism dependent western US town of less than 10k residents and over 5 million visitors a year. Average home price last quarter 900,000k. My rent increased 20% in 2022 it will likely increase another 20% in 2023. I currently pay 950$ / mth for a never maintained 300 Sq ft “living space”. My base pay is 39k yearly with a major fed employer of “wildland firefighters”. Healthcare premiums increased 10% this year (2022) and will increase another 20% next year. Starting labor (construction, fast food, hotel) makes 22$ hr plus full benefits. I make 21.22$ hr after 14 years of good performance including ENGB, ICT4, FAL1, EMT.
And I’m not the only one. Hell no. Some of my contemporaries have left. Many remain and many are living in worse circumstances. We don’t have: UTVs, fancy trucks (most of our vehicles are more than 10 years old), HOUSES, RVs, Vanlife (unless we actively avoid rent and pay that money down on a van), top of the line fancy clothes.
And we don’t need that crap anyways. What we do need is some respect from your like, CFC and many others that post here, that we are paid equitably to MEET BASIC DECENT NEEDS. AND WHAT COMPENSATION IS ACTUALLY IS INSUFFICIENT.
So if the citizens of this country want a functioning Wildland Fire workforce – they will put their money down, so those workers will be able to afford a decent respectful living.
@forestry tech 4 life from your attitude you seem like the dead weight that gets thrown onto the Forest throw together crew and is a negative non producer
I read the report and I think cost of living should have been higher on the list.
I’m a temp and I make $17.31/hr, which is $2232/mo. I live in the nearest town 45 mins away. The cheapest house is $500,000 and rent runs $2000-$6000/mo. My rent is $2000/mo and my gas is $120/mo. That doesn’t leave me much to pay my bills and buy food.
And yes, it’s a choice. I choose to work. But, shouldn’t have to apply for public assistance when I have a government job.
So, how do we fix this?
1) Increase wages. Duh!
2) Stop hiring temp work. Hire permanent with all the benifits. If the fire season is year round than we should hire firefighters year round.
3) Fix the hiring process. It should not take 6 months to hire someone. Get rid of Fire Hiring. Go thru USAJobs. Yes, I know that’s going to piss people off, but what’s happening is people are going around the process and because they are going around the process the process is not getting fixed.
4) Stop hiring illegals. Yeah, stop doing it. Stop using prisoners. There are a lot of people who want to work. Why are we hiring illegals and prisoners and then surprised when bad things happen?
5) When posting a position make sure that you can hire qualified people. Use common sense. For example, when NPS/FS post a position that is local (in remote locations) remember that most people who are local already work for the park/forest. So, what happens is if you post it as local in say Albuquerque, then yeah, you’ll get applicants, but say you post local for a park/forest in Texas or New Mexico, you may not get any applicants. So, it services the urban or bigger parks/forest and disservice the rural or smaller parks/forest.
6) OPM needs to fix cost of living wages. Like in my case I have to drive 45 mins to the closes town and the cost of living is much higher that that of the duty station.
7) Housing. There is a lack of housing. So, fix the houses or bring in tiny homes or set up more places to park RVs.
8) Get rid of the old cast system. Why does a LEO get a house over an admin or over a firefighter? If they have to have a house because they have a gun then why don’t they share a house? Why can’t same or different sex people share a house? Why have 1 person in a 3 bedroom house? Why can’t people have pets? I could go on and on.
9) The woman problem. I am a woman. And I don’t think there should be all women crews. I think we should all work together. I get the benefits of a woman crew, but you’re not solving the bigger problem. When a woman is sexually harassed or raped it’s not her fault, it is the man’s fault. Fix that problem. Don’t blame the woman, blame the man who sexually harassed or raped her. You are punishing the wrong people. Would you have an all black crew? An all Hispanic crew? How can y’all talk about diversity when you have separate crews? It’s racist? So, then why is it ok to be sexist?
10) The pregnant woman problem…I heard this this week and was so perplexed…so confused. So, apparently there’s a problem. So, when women leave to go have a baby and then they come back they loss their quals. So, there’s talk on how to fix this. The idea is when they come back they still have their quals…What do y’all think about that? Because I think if they are going to do that to women why not to men?
I’d like to stay and help fix these problems, but I’m a temp…What can I do when I’m only there for 6 months? What can I do when management or Congress isn’t willing to make the necessary changes?
Good luck everyone! Peace Out!
How are women they losing quals? Currency used to hold for 5 years for non aviation positions.
I think some of the quals are expiring in 2 years. Again, I was really confused about this topic, yes, I’m a woman, but I don’t have any children, so I don’t know if this is a good or bad thing. I was confused and very uncomfortable. Like, what if you don’t leave to have kids. Is that fair? What if you do leave? Is that fair? What if you are a man? Can you leave and still keep your quals? I was curious about the legal ramificarion? Like in an interview they can’t ask you if you left a job to take care of a child. So, can they ask you if you left Fire to raise a child? I think, they are trying to deal with the scenario where women left to take care of their children during COVID. But again I think this might cause more problems. I think they need to solve the bigger problem and that is to look at all the positions and see if the requirements are still relevant.
I’ve been out of the feds since 2016 and been able to keep all my non aviation qualifications pretty easily so this person’s experience seems odd. It’s possible she was about to expire on some quals and then had a baby. Losing all your quals by missing a year is very unusual.
Another aspect the report missed was the disfunctional relationship between regions and the WO. Regional leadership actively is subverting the WO direction regularly.
We saw it in the latest debacle when regionally they approved temp (1039) extensions and threatened employees who didn’t want to extend. The WO had to release a memo saying the regions overstepped their authority.
The WO is also surprised that all employees don’t get a $1k cash award annually, as it is funded in their calculations. Guess where the money goes?
So institutional dysfunction is a big issue that needs to be addressed.
14 season firefighter (crews, engines, Helitack)
Just a thought about the Memo the FS in R3 released last month, about all new perm positions being PFT and no longer offering 13/13 or 18/8 positions. You will be able to stay in your current position, but once you take a new one it will be a PFT.
It seems to me that this job is more of a lifestyle and not career until your very far into it, 10 years or more for some. I know many people who do this job for the time off in the winter. In my opinion the arms race with R5 and Cal Fire has led to this, and will drive away the very fabric of the Wildland community. We need hard working, adventurous, people that come back in the spring rejuvenated and lively. These same kinds of people are the backbone of the seasonal workforce and most do not want to be a GS5 PFT, as we already have a housing crisis. This will only further drive them away, as the prospect of living out of your truck or camper for 6 months is one thing. But year round while you thin a district is far different pill to swallow.
In my opinion This whole narrative that has been about higher pay seems to be tied to burning us out even more by having us do fuels work all winter. It seems like the decision makers that use to be seasonal workers themselves and got to enjoy ski and surf season after a busy fire season have forgotten that. Just my thoughts, would love to hear some more peoples opinions.
Tyler – yes. You put it succinctly. Another issue here is that our words aren’t heard by those people. Solution to that is to start filling their ears with it. Also we need to organize “sick outs.” We may not be able to strike (Reagan fired 11,000 PATCO employees in 1968 who striked). But we can throw “unorganized” wrenches in the gears and slow it down until the upper leaders feel the pain. This is the only way forward. We can keep beating drum and thumping on chest. Until the upper leaders feel the pain – beatings will continue until morale improves.
I wrote to Grassroots urging them to drop all policy changes that were being sought summer 2022. I urged them to instead focus on an immediate housing stipend system like the military uses for all and any GS. My brothers and sisters in other GS jobs getting completely slammed by extreme housing costs. My brothers and sisters in “fire” getting completely slammed by extreme housing costs. Immediate 1200-1800$ housing stipend depending on family size per GS person / month. Done.
We aren’t going to drop all of our policy work.
Housing stipends are a great solution, but they are limited by a presidential directive issued by Trump. In fact, it specifically forbids any government housing subsidies. https://www.whitehouse.gov/wp-content/uploads/2019/11/Circular-A-45R.pdf
Sens. Manchin/Barasso in the senate ENR committee have started to push legislation with some housing language in their recent forestry bill, and hopefully they can continue to work on these issues. That’s the same committee that worked on the parts of the BIL related to our work.
Hope that helps!
Thanks SJB for posting that up. It is something that is often misunderstood. It certainly muddied the waters through its 23 pages. However, upon closer inspection, Circular A-45 revised 11/25/19 that you reference does not restrict or prohibit the rental or construction of government housing.
Pg 2, 5 a. “… If there is no requirement of service or protection or if there is adequate available private housing in the market, agencies must not acquire additional rental housing.”
The converse being, 1) there is a presumption of service required as forestry / range technicians are acting as wildland firefighters, and as such are protecting life and property. And 2) that where many of us work, as substantiated often by our county administration wage and housing surveys, there is not adequate available private housing “in the market.”
Ipso Facto A-45 revised does not preclude, nor prohibit, the construction or rental of, government housing.
Please elaborate if I missed something here. It’s a lot to parse.
People making $17.31 can’t even qualify for a $500,000 home with the current interest rates. And the agency’s rarely offers TOS to lower paid individuals anymore. So, we have to pay for the move out of pocket. But a GS-12 can get TOS, an apartment or a house in the park and they don’t have to drive to their duty stations. I just things have gotten turned upside down.
I was addressing your request for a stipend program. 5 b. 2 specifically states that subsidies are prohibited.
Housing is a big issue with some hurdles.
If so then I guess we got to give back the retention “subsidy” allowance that BIL provided?
Or is that just the trick? Yes! We need to get legislation forward that includes a rent stipend! SJB – back to my original post with you! So would you care to address the idea of initiating a bill to provide for a housing stipend for GS workforce? And drop all the other policy changes until that can be pressed through? Much like the military does?
If you are a GRWFF staff / policy influencer – please consider this idea seriously.
R3 will start to have IHC’s go unstaffed or failure to meet Type 1 qualifications now just like R5 with their new PFT thing. The folks in the ivory tower seem to think going PFT is the solution to work/life balance. Most PSE’s work/life balance is 1,000 hours OT and 4-6 months off in the winter to disconnect from the agency and reconnect with life. When you get older, start having families your work/life balance shifts to more spread out over a year and maybe PFT is better…leave some flexibility and decision space out there for each forest to decide. This one size fits all strategy will fail.
@Double Sack: I completely and wholeheartedly agree. The choice of tour will be, if the agency is to maintain quality individuals with irreplaceable knowledge and experience, available to each without retaliation or reprisal.
It would be cards laid on the table upfront and no games of “let’s not mention it, i.e., tour, retention, incentive – if they bring it up fine, but surely don’t mention it first.”
Please do also make your presentation of this situation to the legislators, union, and advocacy groups. I worry that, while an excellent resource that wildfiretoday is, the people that need to hear this don’t oft visit this forum.
Entirely correct. As a non-primary fire militia bagger, I even get burnt out on my Non-PFT appt. and desperately need some time to unplug from all of it. The pressure is still there to keep working as long as possible when I just need some mental health time. I think this is a great way to address some elephants in the room, but not the biggest one. Why not more 18/8 perm appts? hnot have the option to still take that time and funding be available those that don’t want the time can have the time. Sad part is that I thought the folks calling the shots were wiser or cared, but seems quite the opposite. They’ll learn one way another, be it the hard way or by addressing actual issues that doesn’t involve lip service and band aids for broken limbs.
This guy gets it. I am a non-primary, militia guy and even I get need my time away from my non-pft appt. I have observed in the last half decade a real issue with recruitment and retention within my own program. This spans programs and truly is a systemic and federal agency wide issue. It’s putting a band aid on broken arm and complete lip service from people I thought were spose to be wiser and caring about our workforce. It may address an elephant in the room for some, but truly not for others. Why not more perm 18/8 or 13/13 appts with options available as work and funding determines available to those who wish to extend? Why not pay us decent wage or make things remotely affordable to live near and in the communities of our duty locations? I may be just a bagger who gets to go moonlight with you fellas at times, but you have my full support and advocacy in your goals. I hope that it galvanizes systemic movement away from these archaic, deeply entrenched systems that burn us all out on our passion and mission. It seems that grievances so frequently fall on deaf ears and perhaps those calling the shots need to feel some pressure.
Feinstein Press Release:
If pay was fixed then PFT could be the same as 13/13. Take 1000 hours of comp time and live off your base and hazard pay.
Temp vs perm…Why not hire someone as a perm and then give them time off? Because it doesn’t make sense that the government pays for a temp and pays unemployment. Why pay someone who is not working? I mean we have a lot of work to do. Why pay someone to sit at home when we could pay that person to work?
I agree with you about the unemployment. However in my opinion to be on a hotshot crew, or any crew that’s getting 1000 plus hour OT seasons you need time to reset in the winter. With the pay stipend as it is now and a 1000 hours of OT I’m sure a lot of people would come back for seasonal 13/13 positions. Maybe they should just keep the 13/13’s and 18/18’s if people want them and allow them that time off with no unemployment. Just a thought. If they want to stay and have housing let them, if they want to be furloughed then ok.
Again housing cost is the main factor as well as burnout. So asking someone to live in a pickup all summer isn’t bad when they are gone all summer on assignments. Asking them to freeze all winter working base 8’s at their home unit takes that worker out of the equation in my mind.
I feel like the whole concept of getting 1000 hours of OT needs to change. Making that the norm and standard pushes a culture that a) accepts a lot of risk (see the meta review the FS just released) and b) continually promotes an earlier burnout factor. Fire is a year-round problem and we need year-round proactivity. Lots of younger folks love the idea of smashing out 1000 hours of OT and then bailing during the winter. Meanwhile, the rest of us are trying to pick up the pieces and get it reorganized for the next season while trying to get fuels projects, off boarding, hiring, and on boarding done. Not to mention R8 assignments.
I would much rather see rotating tours with periods of unavailability YEAR round so we can pace ourselves.
I appreciate the different perspectives of this, though. Youthful energy willing to gut it out for 5 or 6 months is nice in our current system. But career operations folk tend to see the glaring issues with this and then move on — leaving a absence of knowledge and skills.
I agree with the burnout factor. I also think discarding the backbone of our hotshot crews by making them work year round is a bad idea. If we wanted to shift it so we do say 21 day tours and 7 days off or maybe Sven 14 and 14 then maybe that is more sustainable? Although I still think most young folks would be bored and wish to stay home all summer.
Sorry be bored and not wish to stay at home all summer.
Again lots of them are still living in trucks and bunk houses if lucky.
I would say before we make these jobs all PFT we should take a pulse on what duty stations have housing and which ones don’t. We don’t need to make everything one size fits all. I know some stations near cities have no problems with housing or recruiting, but the remote stations are going to lose their workforce if they make these all PFT before addressing the housing.
Why do you get to reset and I get to be homeless? I understand burnout, but some of us can afford to be burnt out.
I’m not sure I understand your point here? I was “homeless” doing this job when I started for $11 an hour for 6 seasons eventually making $15. That was my choice though. I got out of the military and wanted to travel and live my life. I turned my cell phone off in the winters to save money and went traveling to cheap countries all winter. I lived out of my truck or wherever the cheapest room I could find was in the summers. I didn’t start in this job, nor would I have stayed in this job because of high pay and stability. I think myself and many others started because we valued the lifestyle and seasonal nature (climbers, surfers, and snow bums). I’m not saying that this job can’t be year round, but it shouldn’t be forced on people. I’ve taken many assignments while the year rounders stay back because they are burnt out in the spring and summer all ready.
Had this job been year round back then a ton of people who I know and work with including myself would not be in it now. I’ve personally had back to back 1400 OT seasons and I’m fine. I take the OT when it’s there and don’t spend my money so I am able to make sound decisions.
If people want this to be a 9-5 then there are many other, much better higher paying options out there. I’d love to make way more money personally per hour, but not at the cost of turning this into cal fire or similar.
The days of ski bum, dirt bag wildland firefighters are ending. Fire is a year around problem that demands a year around workforce. It’s already gone that direction significantly during my career. Retaining a workforce that is unwilling to work during half the year, when we can make proactive change, is just going to perpetuate the fire problem. It’s a reactive strategy.
@Oh4Six2: who are you? what is your current job? without that context I cannot understand your input here…care to enlighten us? Fuels AFMO? District Ranger? Forest FMO? Fuels FMO? I say fuels because I once had a Fuels AFMO that talks a lot like you do…and never could see another’s perspective on PFT vs. 18/8.
Not shot, i had this very long, well thought out answer for you and then the page reset and deleted my answer, so I’ll try to make this short and sweet. With the current hiring system some people are hired as perms and they make more money and get more benefits, while others are hired as temps with less money and less benefits. I understand that some people like to be temps to reset, but there is a lot of work that needs to be done and if the NPS/FS can hire these people on as perms they could make more money and get more benifits. I worked 10 years with the State, 5 years at the NPS as a GS-9, 4 years at the FS at the SO and RO as a GS-11/12, and then worked for the Air Force and then the Army, and now I’m back at the NPS as a temp as a GS-5, making $17.31/hr. I love my job and the people I work with. But, I have a pretty unique perpective of how the NPS/FS works. And I just don’t understand how a government employee can go from perm to temp to homeless, but that’s what’s happening to many of us who cannot afford to keep working for the government. So, I’m glad that you get to reset, but some of us don’t. Some of are not making it and we are one pay check away from being homeless. Happy Thanksgiving!
@Tyler: well said. Agreed “Asking them to freeze all winter working base 8’s at their home unit takes that worker our of the equation…”
Although, while I support tour being the choice of the employee, there are some who are content to be paid base 8s and hang out in the office – doing very very little.
Definitely going to explore the comp time more if we get the permanent pay increase. But I’m sure management won’t like too many of us taking 500-1000 hours of comp plus use or loose annual leave, but I’m going to try…
Did some research on Comp and Credit time earned while on fire assignment:
Q: Can I earn comp time or credit hours on a fire assignment?
A: No. While employees may voluntarily elect to earn credit or comp time off in-lieu of irregular or occasional overtime hours, Federal employees are prohibited from charging credit or comp time to emergency situations. This is because fires are fully funded and the costs of the operations must be reported to Congress. Fire job codes are usually open for very short periods of time before they’re closed out and reported to Congress.
Guidance will vary between agencies. The BLM Standards for Fire Business Management handbook states on page 8 line 34 “Those employees who choose compensatory time in lieu of emergency fire overtime must negotiate with their supervisor prior to taking an assignment and document the request the approval in writing and filed with the timekeeper.”
Great article. Thank you for posting. I was initially going to say that if the GAO was just now noting critical issues with recruitment and retention, then they were late to the party, as it’s a problem, long ago, earmarked by the fire service, or specific to wildland, fire, fighting, other non-federal wildland operations, (E.g., CAL Fire).
However, judging by some of the comments, the GAO report is old hat for the feds. What can I say? It’s government. A bureaucracy. Problems need to be noted 17 times before solutions are found. Solutions need to be implemented another 17 times before any real movement is made towards resolution.
I personally wanted to note, however, that nothing is mentioned about the recruitment process itself. A number of years ago I helped my first recruit wanting to join the BLM or other federal fire agency. It was a train wreck to navigate the process and decipher what they were looking for. As recently as three months ago, in helping, yet another recruit, the experience was the very same. Out of frustration, the recruit gave up and moved on to fighting fire elsewhere. The feds lost a great potential employee. Apparently the GAO study involved, “stake holders and other agencies“, (not a direct quote). They did not, however, includes the very people they are trying to recruit. And considering the process and its myriad difficulties, they need to think of their audience: young people, after new at navigating bureaucracies, just trying to get that first leg up. Simplify the process. Paperwork should not be a barrier for a young person, trying to get a low paying/high risk position.
Just food for thought.
After 17 seasons I finally decided I had enough and left in the middle of last fire season. Best decision I’ve made. At the regional meeting to discuss the vaccine mandate a year ago the regional leaders said that if we don’t get the shot we will be replaced. Well guess what, fire hire came and left and a certain engine captain position is still vacant. Hahahaha!