Firefighters Feel Strain Of High Risks & Low Wages

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As wildfires, fueled by human-caused climate change, have grown more extreme, so has the burden on the wildland firefighters, and it’s pushing many out of the job they love, Thomson Reuters reports. “The seasons are longer, and we’re not being treated any better,” Brian Campbell, veteran of nearly two decades of firefighting for the U.S. Forest Service said. Donovan Lee, a 22-year veteran who quit last year agreed. “Every year for the last five years, it’s getting worse and worse,” he told Thomson Reuters, adding, “You make more money at McDonalds.”

Photo by Matt Chesin. (Seems like these people deserve well over $15 an hour.)

Low pay and benefits are a major driver of shortages. (President Biden raised the minimum wage for federal firefighters to $15 per hour, still less than the typical salary of a local firefighter, less than a month ago.)

One-fifth of federal firefighting jobs are vacant, leaving firefighters to work overtime in increasingly-dangerous heat made worse by climate change. “If they pay more, firefighters wouldn’t need to be working overtime to get a livable wage,” said Kelly Martin, president of the advocacy group Grassroots Wildland Firefighters. “In a perverted way we’ve monetized risk taking.”

Source: Thomson Reuters Foundation. This is a quick news brief from Nexus Media.

Addendum: some quotes from The Human Element:

“The new fires that we’re seeing now tend to be larger, more intense,” Stephen Pyne, professor Arizona State University continues. “I think we are starting to understand that this began a long time ago — when the Earth’s keystone species, which is us, changed fundamentally its combustion habits.”

Chris Woodward, division supervisor in California Fire, is another one of the voices offering more of the consistent evidence that fires are not the same as they once were:

“The fire behavior is off the charts. Like the other night, I saw something about a fire burning at 91% humidity. You know, if you’re getting wet and the fire is still burning, it’s not something that is supposed to happen.”

See the film The Human Element for more.

Featured image by Jose Pontes, CleanTechnica.


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