May 13 2021
Washington—Senators Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) and Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) announced the Government Accountability Office has agreed to assess the hiring and retention of federal firefighters at the five agencies responsible for wildland fire management.
The senators requested this review in an April 27 letter. In addition to Senators Feinstein and Sinema, the request to GAO was joined by Senators Steve Daines (R-Mont.), Alex Padilla (D-Calif.), Mike Crapo (R-Idaho), Patty Murray (D-Wash.), Jim Risch (R-Idaho), Michael Bennet (D-Colo.) and Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.).
“I applaud the GAO for agreeing to review the critical matter of wildland firefighter resources. Climate change is making fires in the West more deadly and destructive, and we need to do more to ensure we have the resources available to battle these fires,” Senator Feinstein said. “The federal government is responsible for managing millions of acres of lands in the Western United States, and ensuring we have enough firefighters and that they are compensated fairly will be an important part of planning for future wildfire seasons.”
“Wildfires in Arizona and across the west are a near-constant threat. I am glad the federal government listened to our calls to take commonsense steps to better protect Arizona communities from dangerous wildfires,” said Senator Sinema.
In conducting its review, the senators urged GAO to:
- Identify barriers to recruitment and retention of federal firefighters at the wildland fire agencies.
- Assess the seasonal firefighter employment model used by wildland fire agencies, and make recommendations for transitioning to a full-time firefighting workforce.
- Review the current job series and pay scale of Forest Service and Interior Department wildland firefighters to ensure their pay is commensurate with state firefighting agencies and reflects their training requirements and the hazardous conditions they must endure.