US seeks to bolster firefighter ranks as wildfires increase
BOISE, I.D. (AP) — U.S. wildfire managers are considering shifting from seasonal to full-time firefighting crews to deal with what has become a year-round wildfire season and increasing pay and benefits to make the jobs more attractive. There’s a push in Congress to increase firefighter pay and convert at least 1,000 seasonal wildland firefighters to permanent, full-time, year-round workers.
U.S. Forest Service Deputy Chief Christopher French told the U.S. Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources on Thursday that firefighters are underpaid. With the number of fires this year already outpacing last year’s destruction, federal officials say they face a potential shortage of firefighters because of a low starting wage of $13 an hour.