Labor shortage compounds federal firefighters’ staffing woes

Elizabeth Hansen, volunteer firefighter

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — Firefighter groups are applauding steps taken by the Biden administration this week to temporarily raise wages for the men and women on the front lines of the nation’s largest wildfires.

But they say the temporary wage hikes won’t be enough to combat staffing problems, as federal agencies compete with local fire departments and a tight labor market.

The National Interagency Fire Center has grown less able to fill crew mobilization orders as climate change makes the U.S. West hotter, drier and more prone to wildfires.

Labor experts, firefighter advocates and federal officials say the land management agencies that employ federal firefighters must do more to keep pace and compete with other fire departments and industries.

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