Home>Articles>GOP, Democratic Senators Co-Sponsor Budget Proposal To Increase Cal Fire Staff

Senator Shannon Grove. (Photo: Kevin Sanders for California Globe)

GOP, Democratic Senators Co-Sponsor Budget Proposal To Increase Cal Fire Staff

Cal Fire would be expanded by over 1,100 new firefighters in preparation for wildfire season

By Evan Symon, December 11, 2021 2:30 am

A budget proposal that would increase the number of California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (Cal Fire) staff in order to help combat wildfires was announced on Friday.
According to the proposed legislation, co-authored by a bipartisan group of Senators including Senator Shannon Grove (R-Bakersfield), Mike McGuire (D-Healdsburg), and Brian Dahle (R-Bieber), Cal Fire would add a total of 1,124 new firefighters comprised of 356 working full-time and 768 hand-crew members working seasonally. A staffing study would be completed with a year of the bills signing showing where new firefighters would be needed most. A requirement would also be added to Cal Fire rules to have at least 3 firefighters assigned to an engine.
Cal Fire engines currently only average around 2.7 firefighters per engine due to a staffing shortage caused by more firefighters being needed due to an increase in wildfires and fewer inmate firefighter crews being used in recent years. In total, the new firefighters would cost approximately $214 million annually for salary and benefits. No end date is currently attached to the legislation, making these new staffing levels at Cal Fire permanent.
Senator Mike McGuire. (Photo: Kevin Sanders for California Globe)
“This proposal will be a critical down payment in supporting our firefighters who meet the increasing demands that wildfires have on our state,” Senator Grove said in a speech outside the State Capitol Building in Sacramento on Friday. “Our firefighters continue to battle wildfires of historic proportions and work tirelessly to protect our communities.”

Senator McGuire also added words on the proposal.

“It’s simply not enough,” added Senator McGuire on Friday. “There are not enough California firefighters to keep up with the growing demand we’re seeing each and every year. The thinner staffing has led to firefighters working for weeks at a time without days off while battling some of the largest and most destructive fires in the state’s history. Cal Fire firefighters have dedicated their lives to keep us safe. Now we as a state need to step up and keep them safe.”

“Inmate firefighters are making up a small portion of those ranks in recent years. In February 2020, there were 1,426 inmate firefighters in Cal Fire camps, down 8% compared to the year prior. That number is only a third of the 4,200 inmate firefighters reported by the state’s firefighting agency a decade ago.”

A potentially large expansion of Cal Fire

Due to the bipartisan nature of the bill and the critical need for more wildfire-fighting resources, the proposal saw little to no opposition on Friday. Wildfire fighters praised the bill, saying that long stretches of overtime with no breaks had been wearing thin on them, with the bill allowing some breathing space.

“People think we’re lucky because we largely don’t have to work for months at a time,” a Cal Fire firefighter who wished to remain anonymous told the Globe on Friday. “But, like football players or other professionals whose work comes around a certain time of the year, we are still working. We’re training, learning new equipment, working out to maintain strength levels needed, teaching rookies, going over practice scenarios, and, if the firefighters are more local, even being “loaned out” to other wildfire hotbeds like Australia.”

“But when the fires are on, we can go months without a substantial break. If we’re not in California due to a lull here, then we’re helping elsewhere. It’s a mad rush of making firebreaks, rerouting fires, dousing the flames, everything, all in one area. And then when that fire starts to go, right of to the next one.”

“We’re just over 6,000 people now, so adding over a thousand will give us time to have longer breaks and be able to catch up on everything. If we aren’t going to put more inmate firefighters out there, then this is what is needed.”

The proposal is expected to be formally introduced soon.

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5 thoughts on “GOP, Democratic Senators Co-Sponsor Budget Proposal To Increase Cal Fire Staff

  1. Will said firefighters ALSO be able to perform CONTROLLED BURNS to limit the fuel sources as the Native Americans did for centuries, or are we going to kowtow to the enviro-whackjobs that would rather leave the forest overgrown so it catches fire and sends TONS more particulate matter into the atmosphere than if a managed program were implemented?

    Asking for a friend…

    1. That’s why this “De-fund the Police” movement is popular among these Democratic politicians. It’s only after they put it to the test do they then realize it’s just another Progressive experiment that’s bound to backfire on them BIG TIME.

      Priceless

  2. How about allowing logging again on federal and state lands while also allocating funds for clearing brush to prevent devasting fires in the first place?

  3. This is no criticism of CalFire but they are a band aid to the gross incompetence of the state. Then again this is all by design as the greens who run things want everything black to run humans out of all the rural areas in the state.

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