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Washington to hire 60 wildland firefighters

firefighters at a briefing
Courtesy of the Forest Service
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The full-timers will supplement the seasonal firefighters the state hires each year.

The Washington Department of Natural Resources is expanding its team of full-time firefighters.

Funding for the new 60 new positions comes mainly from a bill passed unanimously last year by the state legislature.

State Lands Commissioner Hilary Franz says currently there are 80 full-time firefighters in the agency, but during fire season, hundreds more are hired for temporary positions to fill the void, depending on the number of fires.

Franz says with more fires reported every year, increasing the number of full-timers will help. That's in part because of a “militia model” the department currently uses, where staffers from other departments have been able to volunteer for fire duty at the height of the season.

“What we found is as our seasons are getting longer, and starting as early as April in 2021, where we had 220 fires in April alone, and then it goes well into October with no real break, we were finding the militia model doesn't always work. We might have need those firefighters for a month, for two months and they have regular day jobs," she said.

Franz says getting more full-time firefighters will also eventually expand the talent pool by creating more experienced firefighters to fill higher level needs. She says while there are many current experienced crew members in their 50's and 60's, there is a gap of less experienced folks filling the ranks now.

“That gap is because we are not investing in the firefighters as a career, right? That is a full-time year-round wildland firefighting experience, so that they are learning that incident command leadership from type 3 to type 2 and then to type 1 on the ground in different landscapes and different conditions," she said.

Those incident command scales indicate the size and complex needs in managing a fire.

The 60 new firefighters will work on forest health and restoration projects in the off-season when they are not needed on fires.

You can find out more about the various positions for which DNR is hiring on the Department of Natural Resources website.