(The Center Square) — Washington Department of Natural Resources is looking to hire 61 permanent positions related to fire fighting and forest health, including hand crew superintendents, foremen and squad bosses, and heavy equipment operators.
These firefighting positions are usually seasonal, based on the level of firefighting activity. However, the DNR says climate change combined with hotter, drier weather have created a need for year-round firefighting capability. Commissioner of Public Lands Hilary Franz says the positions are needed to protect life and property.
“When fires break out across our landscapes, it is imperative that we have the firefighters needed to protect our neighbors, communities, and forests,” Franz said in a statement. “That is why I have made expanding our wildfire fighting force a top priority. In the offseason, these positions will do the vital work of restoring forest health — returning natural wildfire resistance — which is essential to reducing fire risk in the future.”
Based on pay ranges for the positions listed on the state job site, the salary expenditure could range from some $2.5 million to $3.2 million annually.
Some of the salaries will be funded by House Bill 1168, which addresses long-term forest health. The measure was passed unanimously last year by the Washington Legislature and authorizes the addition of more full-time firefighters. The bill allocates $125 million for each of the next eight years for firefighting and forest health.
Washington DNR is the largest fire department in the state and is responsible for firefighting and prevention on 13 million acres of private, state, and tribal-owned forestlands.
So far in 2022, over 140,300 acres in Washington have burned. In 2021, that number was 484,000, and in 2020, 842,000. The worst year for forest fires in the state was 2015 when over one million acres were lost.