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Panel okays route to permanent federal jobs for firefighter temps

A wind-driven wildfire at Wheeler Crest near Bishop, Calif., on Feb. 6, 2015. (Jim Stimson via CalFire/AP)

Federal firefighters hired seasonally to extinguish wild land blazes would be allowed to compete for permanent positions under legislation approved by a House panel.

“Because of their status, benefits and career advancement opportunities are limited,” said Rep. Gerald Connolly (D-Va.). “Our bipartisan legislation would put them on equal footing with other federal employees with respect to competing for vacant jobs in the civil service, including permanent seasonal jobs.”

Currently, the temporary workers are not allowed to compete for the permanent jobs under the merit system promotion procedures available to others. That can lead to high attrition, increased training costs and an erosion of federal firefighting capabilities, according to Connolly.

Along with Connolly, the Land Management Workforce Flexibility Act, which the committee approved with a unanimous voice vote, is sponsored by Reps. Rob Bishop (R-Utah) and Don Young (R-Ark.).

Mark Davis, vice president of the National Federation of Federal Employees, praised the measure, saying it “removes a nonsensical regulatory barrier to career-advancement opportunities for long-serving federal wild land firefighters and other temporary seasonal workers.”