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Wildland Firefighters Battling Homelessness During Seasonal Work

by Michael Freeman
(Carlos Avila Gonzalez/The San Francisco Chronicle via Getty Images)

This year has been especially bad regarding fires, with some towns requiring complete evacuation due to the danger. Unfortunately, it appears wildland firefighters face another threat as well: homelessness.

Yahoo! News recently published a report on the growing problem firefighters face of low pay and few options regarding affordable housing. Reportedly, the wildland firefighting workforce hinges on huge numbers of temporary and seasonal workers spending four to six months on the job. These firefighters are often away from their families and subsequently laid off when the season ends. Wages are also fairly low, even for experienced firefighters, averaging anywhere from $15 to $20 an hour.

Speaking anonymously, many firefighters spoke about how they make ends meet and the toll it takes. “I survive by chasing as much overtime as I can,” a 35-year-old Forest Service firefighter said. “Sometimes I’m working 80 to 100 hours a week. Every year I question if I’ll come back next season. If you’re looking to settle down with a home and a family, this career keeps that at arm’s length.”

Luke Meyer stated he spent his first season camped out in an old rodent-infested building. He kept a mattress inside a tent on the floor to prevent mice from crawling across his chest as he slept. “I love this job and the people I work with,” said Meyer. “But is it worth living like this, with so much uncertainty?” The answer was no, as Meyer quit on August 27.

Luckily, organizations are trying to change these conditions. The Tim Hart Wildland Firefighter Classification and Pay Parity Act was recently introduced and aims to revamp firefighter pay, benefits, and worker classifications. Joe Biden also suggested a $1 trillion infrastructure bill, with $600 million going to wildland firefighters.

Though these efforts are in their early stages, hopefully, they help remedy the unfair burden our firefighters face.

Wildfires Took 44 Sequoias This Year as Firefighters Tried to Stop the Flames

Earlier this year fires devastated the United States, particularly in the west. The Caldor Fire was among the worst, forcing evacuations and even burning 44 sequoias down.

As the Caldor Fire spread earlier this month, its devastation managed to bring down at least 44 sequoia trees. For reference, these behemoths grow hundreds of feet tall and several dozen feet wide. Making matters worse, the fire made its way through almost 12 sequoia groves. One of the most notable of these is the Trail of 100 Giants.

To save them, firefighters enacted a last-ditch effort. This included a number of feats, such as scaling to the tops of the trees to drench the burning tree crowns. Firefighters then wrapped the trunks in fire-resistant materials, then went so far as to also drop fire-retardant gel on the fires. Though mildly successful, it did little to deter the flames from advancing.

While not out, the Caldor Fire is now 100 percent contained.