As also reported by the L.A. Times, fire season is coming and California doesn’t have enough firefighters.
Ever since the devastating Camp Fire of 2018, California has been incredibly focused on fire prevention and safety. However, according to recent statistics, the state doesn’t have the number of firefighters it estimates will be needed for 2019’s wildfire season. In fact, the state had a goal of reaching 1,600 seasonal firefighters by this time of the year and they’ve only hired 1,359 so far.
“Fewer pairs of boots on the ground will have an impact if it gets busy, and they are short of resources. They could all be competing for resources a month from now.” – Bobbie Scopa, U.S. Forest Service’s assistant fire director in 2018.
What Reasons are There for the Shortage?
The biggest culprit behind the shortage of seasonal firefighters in California this year is a low unemployment rate. And, in addition to that, low wages — entry-level federal firefighters make $12.95 an hour — and housing costs in the state have made the job less attractive than it used to be. Also, the federal government shutdown earlier in the year prevented the hiring of several potential seasonal firefighters.
To make things worse, even if the state of California was able to hire the number of seasonal firefighters that it estimates it needs, there aren’t enough experienced officials to train them. All-in-all this fire season is looking like it’s going to be quite the financial and logistic stretch for California in 2019.