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Home / WLF TheySaid / Retention

  • 04/09/2015
  • FancyApache

Just out of curiosity on other Forests.

How is the retention ? Are you losing people to other agency’s ? How many people left for a completely different job outside of fire ?

Just trying to see if others are having an issue like we are on my forest keeping people in the agency instead of jumping ship to other endeavors.

I have noticed since this temp fire hire came and went that there are a lot of brand new faces and talking to a lot of the old faces that have left,it looks like a good majority have left for other jobs out side of fire in other agency’s or companies.

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  1. Doing more with less
    April 9, 2015 Reply

    It’s everywhere in Southern California. I don’t blame the people that are leaving. Going to jobs that start between 60k-75k and killer retirement packages. Mostly to local Fire and Police/Sheriff Departments We have a lot of GS-5s that after probation are making 130-150k (with overtime) and that’s just starting pay. I know that this is not the norm across the states and I’m not here to start the annual mud throwing contest. I have always applauded people wanting to better their financial and work situation. Working 10 days out of the year making good money (well earned) and enjoying life.

  2. NeverDull
    April 9, 2015 Reply

    I couldn’t agree more “Doing more with less”. Great points.

    We are quickly reaching, if not reached a point where are applicant pool is thinner and the skill sets of applicants are weaker.

    Fed Fire Agencies in Cali should act now, but we usually wait until it turns into a crisis (circa 2007).

  3. Fruition
    April 10, 2015 Reply

    I’ve always believed that the best recruitment program is a good retention program. The federal agencies such as the USFS spend 100’s of thousands of dollars every year to recruit folks that will only leave the first chance they get for better pay and retirement. If the USFS would simply put that money into a good salary and benefit package they wouldn’t have to recruit. I wonder why you never see LA County and LA City work fairs or recruitment programs, maybe because when you pay people what they’re worth you don’t have to spend thousands on recruitment. WOW what a concept. Unfortunately, the decision makers in the USFS don’t seem to care enough to do anything about it other than creating task forces that spend thousands of dollars figuring what we already know and develop plans that nobody implements. Congress talks a big talk but never helps us either. In the mean time quality folks keep leaving and new people keep promoting with less experience. Write your congressman is all we ever hear and a lot of us do and have been for years but to no end. I’m all for giving up on portal to portal and trimming the bills down to something that may actually pass and get implemented. How about letting seasonal forestry technicians buy back their time post 1989. How about hazard pay on prescribed burns and included on retirement base salary. These things would also help keep people around and actually may have a chance of getting through. Portal to portal is definitely deserved by all federal agencies I just think that it’s so big that it ruins the chances of all of these smaller benefits passing.

  4. Tim
    April 10, 2015 Reply

    Both LACoFD and LAFD have recruitment. The largest problem, coming from someone whom made the switch, speaking to So Cal is the wage to cost of living difference. I was USFS for 3 years. Loved my job! My captain and my crew, however, not being able to support a family or live within 50 miles of my station is hard. Plus I think, as with me, it was a stepping stone because it is such a well respected position on the west coast. People know if you have worked more then a few seasons that you are not scared of hard work.

  5. Greg
    April 13, 2015 Reply

    Fruition and tom are right. It’s the difference between being the employer if choice or the player of last resort.

  6. fsretired
    April 14, 2015 Reply

    Say good job to the folks that left the forest service. They left to for a better life for themselves and there families. The agency will never improve because they don’t need to as long as the applicant pool is large. The regional foresters, fire directors or Tidwell will not work together to address the issue.

    Leave before it gets to late.

  7. Dewayne
    April 14, 2015 Reply

    I say good job too! And CongratsQ

  8. Steven S.
    April 15, 2015 Reply

    I have eight years experience on the LP as a seasonal hot shot time and engine/helicopter. Can’t get a full time job while I watch all my good friends leave the agency. This has been the lowest moral I have seen from fellow workers leaving or staying and the season has not even started. I love my job and the FS but it seems hard to stay. Same old story pay, better working hours,better retirement. Who can make any of these changes?

  9. fsretired
    April 15, 2015 Reply

    Steven S.
    The forest service is fun and exciting. Having fire in your face, completing burnouts, feeling good about the accomplishments is great. But in the long run, the pay, ability to promote and the retirement package is not. Apply to other forests if you want to stay, other wise look at other agencies.

  10. The perpetual temp.
    April 15, 2015 Reply

    Fsretired and others, I find it both interesting and frustrating to hear about job retention issues and how other usfs temps seem to have so many options. Where I live just temp fire jobs are hard to get. And forget about other agencies, only small players in the fire scene and tend to pay less while also seem to be state sponsored good ol boy clubs. So even if I wanted to work for less with one of the other agencies getting a job would be tough. Is it really THAT much different in R5? IF so, then it goes to show why there is such a huge difference in populations between our states.

  11. Fruition
    April 17, 2015 Reply

    I believe that the USFS is on the brink of yet another mass exodus of quality, experienced firefighters to other agencies. Other departments are hiring again and the retention bonus is gone. It’s terribly sad for the people who stay with the agency to see their co-workers leave year after year. What happened to regional leadership caring about employee moral in R5? People often ask why there is less and less green on IMT’s these days. I say where is the incentive? Your team gets pre-positioned 500 miles from home for two weeks and you get paid 12 hours a day with no hazard pay while all the state and local government team members get portal to portal. Gee I wonder why there’s less green on IMT’s. Chief Officers being pressured to take the night call when there chief vehicle is more than an hour a way. Working over 1,000 hours of overtime in 6 months and being classified as a forestry tech, really??? If we’re forestry techs than why do we get FF retirement???? All of these things and many others affect retention. Most of these issues have been on the table for over 30 years. In the mean time fire seasons are getting longer, the fuels are getting heavier and the climate is getting warmer. One would think that the USFS would try to react to these changes by strengthening the fire programs but they don’t. Line officers just keep pulling the reigns on the fire programs. Fire in R5 needs to work for fire not line.

  12. ARCH
    April 18, 2015 Reply

    I remember these same conversations back in 1970 when I started and they continue to this day. I did finally realize the truth. They don’t care! They never will. and “what does it matter”! Main reason I switched from CSRS to FERS.. to get out with 25 years at age 45!! Contracting back to the fire services has been very good dollar wise.

  13. retired
    April 21, 2015 Reply

    You stated your contracting back to the fire service. Are you doing that as an AD with the forest service or have you signed on with a local government agency?

    1. ARCH
      April 24, 2015 Reply

      Started as AD then switched to local government now back to AD. Signed up through the Forest Service, through that sign-up I have ended up working for USFS, NPS, BLM, FWS on incidents.

  14. FancyApache
    April 22, 2015 Reply

    I would love to leave the agency now after seeing the benifits package some of my old co-workers are getting but after 14 years of being in the FS i am truly scared to leave and start all over.. Im sure im not the only one in my boat

    1. Fruition
      April 27, 2015 Reply

      FancyApache, if you have that much time in it’s better to finish your 20 years , lock in your pension and then leave for better pay and start your second retirement package. You can then become an official double dipper. The ones that stay to the bitter end (age 57) are forced out anyway (legal age discrimination). As FERS employees once you hit 20 years of service you go from getting 1.7% to 1.0% per year VS 3% a year for Cal Fire employees throughout. Plus you wont need to claim medical from your new employer because you already have it for life locked in with the FEDS so it’s more money in your pocket from the new agency. Unfortunately you’re just a number to the FEDS and your vacancy will be filled shortly after you leave with no regard to the experience and knowledge that leaves with you. There’s a lot of hard core firefighters out there with the USFS that bleed green for the agency, unfortunately the agency does not bleed green for them. It’s a one way relationship that eventually leads to the retired FED employee in the soup line in there golden years. It’s funny how many people have tried to affect change in a positive way for the federal forestry technician over the years. It’s also ironic that one of the few that has been successful was only a seasonal GS-4 hotshot that started a petition on Change.org and got seasonal firefighters the opportunity to have medical insurance with the FEDS. Kind of funny when you think about all of the groups out there that couldn’t get it it done and a seasonal hotshot does without any dues or any kind to support for his efforts. Long story short lock in your pension and go somewhere else for a second pension.

  15. retired
    April 27, 2015 Reply


    Thanks for you response

  16. Dust in the wind
    May 11, 2015 Reply

    With the last year the Los Padres has lost 23 permanent employees from the GS 5-8 level to local municipalities. The experience that has left is a huge blow to that forest. More of an exodus is on the horizon when the same municipalities will be hiring in the fall. High level of experience for the wildland firefighter is very desirable for local departments, they know what there getting, hard-working and dedicated individuals. Will I be applying? You bet your arse I am. With 21 years experience and many ops quals, I work very hard because that’s who I am, but working for peanuts and an agency who can care a less about their employees and who are disconnected with the ground folks. This just isn’t cutting it anymore. I’m tired of living paycheck to paycheck. To the younger crowd, Get Out while you can!!

  17. Fruition
    May 15, 2015 Reply

    Cal Fire is currently hiring lots of GS-5’s from the USFS. The FS hired them as temps then eventually hired them as apprentices and spend thousands of dollars in training on these folks so they can be trained up for Cal Fire and other local government departments. In a time of budget cuts, fiscal responsibility, and overall heavy spending oversight how can regional and national oversight see this as being financially efficient in any way? It’s ok to make us all show half hour breaks in the middle of a shift but not ok to be fiscally responsible with employees who would love to stay but just can’t afford to. Unfortunately I really don’t see the USFS do anything to keep employees unless they are forced to by congress. Having Diane Fienstien in our corner last time was the only thing that started the retention bonus it wasn’t the agency. We all need to contact our congressman and tell them what’s going on with our retention again. Whining about it on They Said does absolutely nothing. It’s time to make another run at making things right for the ones who are still here and are willing to go down with the ship.

  18. FancyApache
    May 17, 2015 Reply

    I know we have our surveys and what not but does the Regional office even have a clue on how we are losing such great employess? Do they read things like posts like these that are uncensored and filled with the truth of the forestry tech ?

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