June 21, 2001
Dear Representative XXXXXXX:
As you know, last summer was a fire season that rivaled many of the historic fire years-1910, 1988, and 1994 - when we tragically lost firefighters in addition to acres of burnt forest. Fortunately, the 2000 fires saw few accidents due to a strict adherence to safety standards, and by putting our most qualified people in charge. Unfortunately, with an age-limiting hiring policy the Forest Service will not be able to hire some of our most experienced firefighters. NFFE/IAM requested a waiver of the maximum entry age (letter dated 4/23/01) from Secretary of Agriculture, Ann Veneman, thus allowing fire managers to hire these dedicated, experienced firefighters.
We encourage you to sign on to Congressman Bart Stupak's letter urging Secretary Veneman to grant the waiver of the maximum entry age. This waiver will help solve the problem of a shortage of qualified firefighters, and will allow many long-term temporary firefighters the opportunity to be hired into positions with health and retirement benefits. Some of our multi-resource permanent employees, those who gained firefighting experience through collateral duties, would also be allowed to apply for fire positions. The attached article, "Wildfire Crews Depleted", printed in the Arizona Republic (6/4/2001), describes the situation of the shortage of experienced firefighters.
Thank you for your consideration of our request.