How Does The Dramatic Fire Season Affect Firefighter Recruitment?

Published: Friday, August 24, 2018 - 10:15am
Updated: Friday, August 24, 2018 - 11:48am
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Around 400 firefighters and 80 pieces of equipment from Arizona are headed to California to battle wildfires.

In addition to Arizona, firefighters from around the United States and the world are helping to battle the blazes.

“We just brought in 146 Australian and New Zealand firefighters," said Jessica Gardetto, spokesperson for the National Interagency Fire Center in Boise, Idaho. "These firefighters will help provide relief for some fire line managers who’ve been working on the fire line for weeks. And then they’ll also be filling really critical positions that they’ve been requesting on some of these fires throughout the Northwest.”

As the fires continue to drain resources and manpower, you might think it would hinder the recruitment of new firefighters to step in and help. But that isn’t proving to be the case.

“Moving from fire seasons to fire years seems to have actually increased our ability to reach out and recruit firefighters," Gardetto said. "It’s meaning that firefighters are going to work longer throughout the year, that’s been one issue, surprisingly, with recruiting wildfire firefighters because, historically, these have been seasonal jobs.”

Currently, there are over 16 fires burning in California, and other states are dealing with the same issue. While some recruits may have previous firefighting experience, in many cases, this is a completely new, first-year experience. They receive weeks of classroom and, what they call, on-the-line training.

“And that means a lot of fire drills and learning how to dig a fire line and run equipment such as chainsaws and wildland fire engines and the like," Gardetto said. "And after your first year as a wildland firefighter the training never ends."

Gardetto said areas with a lot of public lands hire as many as 30 new firefighters each year. And as these fires continue to grow, California and other states could be hiring more applicants, for these federal jobs, more often and more quickly.

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