NV seeks ways to recruit, retain wildland firefighters; may move away from seasonal jobs

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Published: Jul. 4, 2022 at 10:17 PM PDT|Updated: Jul. 4, 2022 at 10:24 PM PDT
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RENO, Nev. (KOLO) - Fire season is underway and according to state officials, Nevada’s wildland firefighting crews are in decent shape.

“Our fire program has some vacancies but for the most part is fully staffed,” said Ron Bollier, Fire Management Officer for Nevada’s Division of Forestry.

Despite the state’s seemingly stable staffing, Bollier says wildland firefighting crews are interconnected and short staffing in other state and local agencies could have a ripple effect.

“It could impact a little bit of capacity, overall,” he says. “It won’t necessarily put a resource out of service, but there may be less firefighters on that apparatus or that hand crew or that helicopter.”

However, just a few months back it almost got to that level. Filling the gaps in a historically tight labor market and a housing affordability crisis has been difficult.

“We’ve had more vacancies this year than we ever had in the past. We’re losing people to other jobs, to better-paying jobs, to maybe... they don’t want to do this job like they did 10 years ago,” said Bollier .

As weather patterns change and wildfires become a more year-round occurrence, the state is thinking of new strategies for not only recruitment but retainment.

“We’re talking about full-time employment versus seasonal. Seasonally we’re having a hard time retaining them (firefighters),” said Bollier.

In addition, the Division of Forestry will also be hiring all year round.

“It’s a lot of work to train them up and get them to qualifications to be able to fight wildland fire but that’s unfortunately where we’re at,” said Bollier.

The state is still looking to fill 15 positions within the Fire Program and about 20 to 40 in the Natural Resource Department.

Bollier says the state is looking to match the new federal pay scale within the next two to four years. He asks the community to now more than ever, be extra careful and follow fire restrictions.

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