Government shutdown concerns wildland firefighter contractors

Posted at 10:35 PM, Jan 23, 2019
and last updated 2019-01-24 00:35:40-05

Wildland firefighter contractors rely on previous fire season's statistics to prepare for the upcoming year, but with the government shutdown, Alex Shaffer, a wildland firefighting contractor says that information isn't available right now.

"You can't get the materials. You can't go to NIFC to the warehouse and order stuff. Any changes in curriculum. We don't see any of that stuff and the people that we normally talk to just aren't available to give a call to," said Shaffer, Torch Fire and Security LLC.

John Hoxsey, the owner of Red Truck Wildfire LLC says the shutdown has potential to affect his company's hiring process.

"I have 35 employees something like that. There's 35 people out there all wondering what their summer job is going to be. What the summer outlook is and then new hires you know. A lot of high school graduates you know for this summer that usually get picked up for firefighting. They're wondering if they should go to welding class instead of firefighting class. Ya, it's tough," said Hoxsey.

Hoxsey says he needs to turn in packets on new employees in March, a deadline the shutdown will make difficult to make.

"Well now if we're turning them in in March and they're backed up six weeks. Now, we're well into the fire season before we get those new employees back to us and validated to use them on the fire line and not a lot of people know that about half of the front line firefighters are contract firefighters like us and so that's a huge impact on what happens on fires," said Hoxsey.

All first year firefighters must go through an initial training.

"Right now the only class I know of in the Boise area to do that initial firefighter training is in Ontario at TVCC, so that's a hard trip for people to get to and there's a lot of traveling and a lot of expense for them," said Hoxsey.

"We should be on it right now. We should be working, we should be getting ready. Nobody wants to have a valley full of smoke like we have in the past and everyday that our governments not working is a day that they're behind on top of their regular work that they have to do assuming when they come back you know at some point. It's frustrating," said Hoxsey.