With wildfire season rapidly approaching across the West, information reported on by the Los Angeles Times found that the Trump administration has up to 500 fewer seasonal wildland firefighters and personnel than originally planned due to recruitment and training delays caused by the historic government shutdown.
“This gross mismanagement by Trump’s Interior Department is dangerous for communities across the West,” said Western Values Project Executive Director Chris Saeger. “The companies that have lined Secretary Bernhardt and Donald Trump’s pockets won’t pay the price for this irresponsible decision, but it could have life-threatening consequences for everyday Americans.”
The report by the L.A. Times found the shortfall, in part, stemmed from the Interior’s inability to recruit and train seasonal firefighters after the historic government shutdown. Interior typically begins the recruitment process in early January and trains the seasonal workers in the spring. Interior’s budget allowed for the hiring of some 5,000 wildfire personnel according to the National Interagency Fire Center, but Interior only hired 4,500 and has no plans for hiring additional wildland firefighters or support personnel.
Firefighting officials warned of such a scenario during Trump’s historic shutdown. Over the historic 35-day shutdown, firefighters were furloughed, controlled burns were delayed, recruitment stalled, and fire training sessions were canceled.
The news of wildland firefighter shortages under the Trump administration comes after a new study of 35 years of data found that fire seasons have become longer and more intense. California and other Western states are already reeling from a historic and devastating fire season in 2018 and the National Interagency Fire Center is predicting an ‘Above Normal significant large fire potential’ this year in the Northwest, California coastal foothills and mountains, and across Idaho’s panhandle and Northern Montana through September, peaking in August.