Wildland Firefighting Workforce
Wildland firefighters help save lives and protect communities, infrastructure, and private, public, and tribal lands from wildfires.
2023 Wildland Firefighting Capacity
For 2023, our goal was to have 11,300 wildland firefighters (GS-9 and below) onboard by mid-July before we approached the busiest part of the fire year. As of July 25, 2023, we had 11,187 wildland firefighters onboard nationwide, which is 99% of our goal of 11,300. Even though we know this isn’t enough capacity to meet the needs of the ongoing wildfire crisis, this is the number of firefighters we can support with existing infrastructure, funding, and other resources. We can boost wildland firefighting capacity with other agency staff and administratively determined (AD) emergency workers qualified to support fire management activities.
We struggle to hire and retain firefighters in areas of the country where the labor pool is low and pay isn’t as competitive as we would like. We have implemented temporary pay supplements through the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law in addition to President Biden’s mandate to increase firefighters’ minimum wage. We are working with the Department of the Interior and the Office of Personnel Management to permanently improve compensation for wildland firefighters and set up a new wildland firefighter job series and have submitted a budget and legislative proposal to Congress to make this a reality in fiscal year (FY) 2024. Our goal is for firefighters to have a sustainable, long-term career that rewards them for the unique and hazardous work they do.
We remain committed to the President’s vision for increasing investments in the federal wildland fire management workforce to deliver an updated, competitive, and equitable pay structure, and an improved support system. These investments will also help us recruit and retain the world’s best wildland firefighters who provide a robust response to the challenges of today’s wildland fire environment.
As of July 25, 2023, we had 11,187 wildland firefighters onboard nationwide, which is 99% of our goal of 11,300. There will be no further updates for 2023.
The table below shows the breakdown of firefighters by Forest Service region (R). Numbers change each pay period (PP) as we bring more people onboard and as some firefighters decline job offers or move to other positions.
as of 3/25 or PP6
|as of 05/10 or PP9||as of 05/30 or PP10||as of 06/12 or PP11||as of 06/26 or PP12||as of 07/10 or PP13||as of 07/25 or PP14|
|Rocky Mountain (R2)||468||632||671||691||701||744||744|
|Pacific Southwest (R5)||2,590||2,851||3,152||3,349||3,426||3,467||3,497|
|Pacific Northwest (R6)||1,117||1,478||1,558||1,680||1,747||1,919||1,934|
The table below represents the percentage of wildland firefighters hired by date, pay-period (PP), and comparing the years in 2022 and 2023.
|As of Date / PP||2022||2023||2023 % of Target (11,300)|
|March 25 / PP6||7,209||7,500||66%|
|May 10 / PP9||8,986||9,319||82%|
|May 30 / PP10||10,182||10,068||89%|
|June 12 / PP11||10,733||10,568||94%|
|June 26 / PP12||10,714||10,778||95%|
|July 10 / PP13||10,908||11,150||99%|
|July 15 / PP14||10,965||11,187||99%|
Conversion to Permanent Positions
In FY 2023, we converted 271 temporary wildland fire employees to permanent positions to continue our transition to a more permanent workforce capable of fire response and mitigation work on a year-round basis. Funding proposed in the FY 2024 budget will support the hiring of 970 additional wildland firefighter positions.