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Calif. bill would give more job security to seasonal firefighters

The bill, which would give seasonal wildland firefighters the same disciplinary rights as permanent firefighters, is supported by CAL FIRE Local 2881

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A proposed California bill, backed by CAL FIRE Local 2881, would provide more job protections for seasonal wildland firefighters.

AP Photo/Nic Coury

Wes Venteicher
The Sacramento Bee

SACRAMENTO — Firefighting careers in California often start with a job as a seasonal wildland firefighter.

The position comes with hard work, difficult conditions and lots of overtime for up to nine months per year. But it lacks the labor protections afforded to full-time, year-round firefighters.

That means employees can work for the state for years only to lose their job over a minor infraction or a misunderstanding, said Tim Edwards, president of Cal Fire Local 2881, the union that represents state firefighters.

“They’re full-time firefighters, and unfortunately in the state system they’re still considered at-will employees,” Edwards said.

The union is pushing for a change this year with Senate Bill 206, introduced by Sen. Mike McGuire, D- Healdsburg. The bill would give seasonal firefighters the same disciplinary rights to which permanent firefighters are entitled under state law.

Under the change, seasonal employees would be covered by the Firefighters Procedural Bill of Rights, which sets out rules for investigations and discipline for “any action that may lead to dismissal, demotion, suspension, reduction in salary, written reprimand, or transfer for purposes of punishment,” according to a summary of the proposed law.

Cal Fire officials increasingly have said fires are a year-round threat. The department employs about 1,800 seasonal firefighters each year who can work varying nine-month stints.

In last year’s budget, Gov. Gavin Newsom augmented the force with 858 additional seasonal firefighters. Newsom’s budget proposal for the fiscal year ahead calls for hiring about 640 more seasonal firefighters on top of the 1,800, said Cal Fire spokesman Nick Schuler.

McGuire’s proposal must receive approval in the state Assembly and Senate and then from Newsom before it would become law.


(c)2021 The Sacramento Bee (Sacramento, Calif.)