Training has been halted for thousands of firefighters. The U.S. Forest Service can’t let contracts for needed equipment. In forests across the West, no federal employees are reducing dry fire fuels that feed catastrophic blazes.
These are some of the effects of the federal shutdown on federal firefighters, and experts say the situation could quickly worsen. If the shutdown drags out for several more weeks, federal fire crews won’t be ready for the months ahead, following a 2018 fire season that killed scores of people and destroyed thousands of homes in California and other states.
“This is the second year in a row we’ve had a shutdown right in the middle of the (firefighter) training season,” said Jim Whittington, a former U.S. Bureau of Land Management employee who runs an Oregon-based crisis management consulting company.