California Members of Congress Call for Year-Round Wildland Fire Workforce
WASHINGTON, D.C. — U.S. Senators Alex Padilla (D-Calif.) and Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) and Representatives Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.), Scott Peters (D-Calif.), and Jimmy Panetta (D-Calif.) led a group of their California colleagues in a letter urging the Biden administration to transition to a year-round federal firefighting workforce.
“As California and the West continue to contend with historic and destructive wildfire seasons, it has become clear that we are entering a ‘new normal’ in which increasingly intense wildfires wreak havoc during a nearly year-round fire season,” the lawmakers wrote to Agriculture Secretary Vilsack and Interior Secretary Haaland.
“Because the federal government owns 57% of the forest land in California, and climate change all but ensures an ever-expanding fire season in the years to come, we must begin to adapt our federal resources to better align with needs on the ground,” the lawmakers continued.
In addition to Padilla, Feinstein, Lofgren, Peters and Panetta, the letter was also signed by Representatives Julia Brownley (D-Calif.), Salud Carbajal (D-Calif.), Jim Costa (D-Calif.), Mark DeSaulnier (D-Calif.), Anna G. Eshoo (D-Calif.), John Garamendi (D-Calif.), Jared Huffman (D-Calif.), Sara Jacobs (D-Calif.), Barbara Lee (D-Calif.), Ted W. Lieu (D-Calif.), Alan Lowenthal (D-Calif.), Jerry McNerney (D-Calif.), Grace F. Napolitano (D-Calif.), Adam B. Schiff (D-Calif.), Brad Sherman (D-Calif.), Eric Swalwell (D-Calif.), Juan Vargas (D-Calif.) and Pete Aguilar (D-Calif.).
The full text of the letter is available here and below:
Dear Secretary Vilsack and Secretary Haaland:
Congratulations on your appointments. We look forward to working with you on the serious challenges California is facing on climate change and the environment. We write to you today to request that your agencies transition to a year round wildland fire workforce, which should include reclassifying more seasonal federal firefighter positions as permanent positions. We ask that you let us know if you need additional resources to fulfill this request.
As California and the West continue to contend with historic and destructive wildfire seasons, it has become clear that we are entering a “new normal” in which increasingly intense wildfires wreak havoc during a nearly year-round fire season. Last year, California had over 9,900 wildfires, which burned a record-setting 4.25 million acres, killed 33 people, and destroyed nearly 10,500 homes and structures. And this year, we are already well above average for both the number of fires and acres burned. Because the federal government owns 57% of the forest land in California, and climate change all but ensures an ever-expanding fire season in the years to come, we must begin to adapt our federal resources to better align with needs on the ground.
Transitioning to a larger, full-time workforce would add immediate capacity to fight wildfires and conduct prevention work nationwide, allow for greater flexibility in shifting personnel between regions when needed, support increased staff capacity to perform actions outside of the fire season that reduce fire risk, provide more stable work opportunities and employee benefits, increase employee retention, and reduce agency costs and burdens associated with the seasonal hiring process.
We appreciate your attention to our request, and stand ready to help however we can.