I was a wildfire fighter for six years. The reason they’re quitting is simple.

By Christopher Benz, writer, past firefighter
The Washington Post
April 8, 2024
Category: Forestry
Region: United States, US West

…In wildfires, safety depends on your co-workers. There’s luck and there’s the strength to resist stupidity, but often you rely on the experience level of the person beside you. The U.S. Forest Service is losing experience. Federal firefighters are quitting. Leadership is leaving. Recruitment is abysmal. The reason is simple: The government hasn’t significantly raised pay in decades. Thirty years ago, a fire job could afford you a modest home. The value proposition was fair — work a year’s worth of hours in one summer and come away with a year’s pay. But wages have barely gone up since then. …Lately, longer fire seasons subject firefighters to weeks of eight-hour days in spring and fall. No overtime, no hazard pay — missing family, and usually, still on call 24 hours a day. …As firefighters quit, it guts crews of experience, leadership and tradition. The firefighters who remain will be less safe. So will homes. [Full access to this story requires a Washington Post subscription]

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