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Despite record funding, US firefighting efforts face a major hurdle: Hiring firefighters

Zach Urness
Salem Statesman Journal
  • With a busy start to the fire season in the Southwest, federal officials are rushing to hire about 16,900 fire personnel.
  • Hiring firefighting personnel has proven tough in a tight labor market.
  • Meanwhile, U.S. spending on wildfire suppression has steadily risen in recent decades. It reached a record-setting $4.38 billion in 2021.

SALEM, Ore. – The U.S. government committed a record-setting amount of money to fighting wildfires this year during what promises to be a busy season, but it's unclear whether enough firefighters will be available amid a nationwide labor crunch.

Fire season is off to a busy start as drought fuels danger from the Great Plains to Northern California. Federal officials are scrambling to hire roughly 16,900 fire personnel, including hotshots, smokejumpers and helitack crews, which are groups of firefighters that are flown in on helicopters to wildfires.