As fire season begins, Senator Jon Tester is fighting to make sure wildland fire fighters can stay on the job and protect families and communities across the west.
Tester plans to introduce a bill to recognize the experience of wildland fire fighters and other seasonal workers as they apply to fill open permanent positions within federal land management agencies, like the U.S. Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management.
Seasonal workers are currently forced to quit their jobs once they reach their annual limit of hours worked. That can lead to a shortage of trained firefighters late in fire season.
"Wildfires don't operate on our schedule, and we need to make sure the folks who manage our outdoors have the resources they need to keep us safe," said Tester, chairman of the subcommittee that oversees the federal workforce. "This bill will make sure that trained, experienced workers can stay on the job when they are needed the most."
Tester's bill could also save the government money since seasonal workers are currently replaced by more expensive contract workers.
During a visit on Tuesday to the Smokejumpers Center in Missoula, Tester talked with firefighters preparing for this year's fire season.
Tester recently called out the U.S. Forest Service for contracting with seven next-generation fire fighting air tankers that might not be ready until late into fire season.