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Calif. Wants Federal Firefighters Year-Round To Deal With 'New Normal' Brought On By Climate Change

LOS ANGELES (CBSLA) – Several members of California's congressional delegation Monday called on the federal government to provide the state with a year-round staffing of federal firefighters to better handle the recent surge in wildfires.

Sens. Dianne Feinstein, Alex Padilla and 21 House members signed onto a letter penned to the USDA and Department of the Interior stating that California is entering a "new normal" as a result of climate change in which wildfire season will be a year-round affair, requiring a full-time federal wildfire workforce.

"Last year, California had over 9,900 wildfires, which burned a record-setting 4.25 million acres, killed 33 people, and destroyed nearly 10,500 homes and structures," the letter reads. "And this year, we are already well above average for both the number of fires and acres burned.

"Because the federal government owns 57% of the forest land in California, and climate change all but ensures an ever-expanding fire season in the years to come, we must begin to adapt our federal resources to better align with needs on the ground."

The congressional members are calling on the USDA and Department of the Interior to transition more seasonal firefighting positions into permanent ones.

The letter did not provide specifics regarding exactly how many permanent firefighters it is calling for or what the financial costs of such a move would be. It argued that having a full-time force would save money over the long run.

"Transitioning to a larger, full-time workforce would add immediate capacity to fight wildfires and conduct prevention work nationwide, allow for greater flexibility in shifting personnel between regions when needed, support increased staff capacity to perform actions outside of the fire season that reduce fire risk, provide more stable work opportunities and employee benefits, increase employee retention, and reduce agency costs and burdens associated with the seasonal hiring process," the letter states.

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