U.S. seeks to bolster firefighter ranks as wildfires increase

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FILE – In this Sept. 14, 2020 file photo Cal Fire Battalion Chief Craig Newell carries a hose while battling the North Complex Fire in Plumas National Forest, Calif. U.S. wildfire managers are considering shifting from seasonal firefighting crews to full-time, year-round crews to deal with what has become a year-round wildfire season and to make wildland firefighting jobs more attractive by increasing pay and benefits. U.S. Forest Service Deputy Chief Christopher French, testifying before the U.S. Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources, said Thursday, June 24, 2021 agencies will seek to convert at least 1,000 seasonal wildland firefighters to permanent, full-time, year-round workers. (AP Photo/Noah Berger,File)

BOISE, Idaho (AP) — U.S. wildfire managers are considering shifting from seasonal to full-time firefighting crews to deal with what has become a year-round wildfire season and increasing pay and benefits to make the jobs more attractive.

There’s a push in Congress to increase firefighter pay and convert at least 1,000 seasonal wildland firefighters to permanent, full-time, year-round workers. U.S. Forest Service Deputy Chief Christopher French told the U.S. Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources on Thursday that firefighters are underpaid.

With the number of fires this year already outpacing last year’s destruction, federal officials say they face a potential shortage of firefighters because of a low starting wage of $13 an hour.

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