The fire season is predicted to be long and fierce and the national labor shortage is hampering the wildfire industry’s ability to hire enough personnel could have devastating results this summer. National Wildfire Suppression Association urges lawmakers and federal agency personnel to support contract language to facilitate rapid response.
MILL CITY, Ore., June 8, 2022 /PRNewswire-PRWeb/ — The fire season is predicted to be long and fierce and the national labor shortage is hampering the wildfire industry’s ability to hire enough personnel could have devastating results this summer. National Wildfire Suppression Association urges lawmakers and federal agency personnel to support contract language to facilitate rapid response.
The 2022 fire season has barely begun, but the western United States is headed for a challenging year of wildfires. In Arizona and New Mexico, hundreds of square miles and thousands of acres have already burned this year.
More than 2,500 personnel from the Professional Private Wildland Fire Industry, in the form of crews and equipment operators, are currently assigned to multiple fires in the Southwest. Private wildfire contractors can bring over 15,000 firefighters and 6,300 pieces of firefighting equipment to action during fire seasons. This private-sector resource provides a great value to the agencies combatting fires as well as the taxpayer, rural communities, and eco-systems threatened by fires.
The confluence of a fire season predicted to be long and fierce and the national labor shortage hampering the wildfire industry’s ability to hire enough personnel could have devastating results this summer.
Unfortunately, professional private fire service companies are denied the flexibility of staffing their ground crews with fully trained and qualified personnel such as crew bosses that would allow for rapid response in various situations that arise during a wildfire season.
“As our member companies prepare for the fire season, we have formally requested our government agency partners make simple changes to crew contract language,” explains National Wildfire Suppression Association Executive Director Debbie Miley. “Once a qualified, experienced crew boss is identified in a contract, he or she should be eligible to lead any crew. This flexibility will allow us to be more responsive and available for dispatch.”
On May 24, 2022, a survey of wildfire crew contractors found more than 30 percent had to make crews unavailable due to this requirement. Companies had to turn down 20 requests for firefighters as specified crew bosses were not available. When a specified crew boss is not available, the contracts prevent a different crew boss with the same qualifications and experience from being assigned in their place.
Technical contract language limiting wildfire crew bosses’ access means that nearly half the available personnel cannot support wildfire suppression efforts.
If agencies change this restrictive regulation, the private wildfire community will have the much-needed flexibility to improve incident capacity and eliminate stress on key personnel.
One small change in US Forest Service regulations can significantly impact the 2022 fire season.
“Government red-tape should never impede wildfire suppression crews from their ability to respond in the most effective and timely way,” said Congressman Matt Rosendale (MT At-Large). “Disasters and emergency situations require immediate attention to protect lives, property, and our natural resources.’
Deborah Miley, National Wildfire Suppression Association, 1 877-676-6972, [email protected]
Kelli Matthews, Verve Northwest Communications, 5415795888, [email protected]
SOURCE National Wildfire Suppression Association