A group of senators from Western states has asked GAO to review of hiring and retention policies for federal wildland firefighters and make recommendations on how for how the pertinent agencies “can improve wildfire prevention and suppression efforts by strengthening the federal firefighting workforce.”
The senators asked the GAO to examine policies at the five agencies most responsible for wildland fire management–the Forest Service in the Department of Agriculture and the Bureau of Indian Affairs, Bureau of Land Management, Fish and Wildlife Service, and National Park Service in the Department of the Interior.
Annual fire seasons have become longer and more intense in recent years and “we are concerned that serious problems exist with the availability of federal fire resources to prevent and respond to wildfire emergencies. Given the increasing threat, and the fact that the federal government is responsible for managing substantial areas of land within Western states, it is crucial that federal agencies have the firefighting capacity and resources they need,” the letter said.
They asked for assessments of barriers to recruitment and retention including specifically for women; the employment model the agencies use including the potential for converting to a full-time firefighting force; and the potential for creating a new occupational series and the potential pay scale.