Winter is a crucial time of year for fire departments in the western United States to hire and train new firefighters. But thanks to the 20-day-and-counting government shutdown, departments have halted training and may be underprepared for the 2019 fire season.
According to the National Wildland Fire Training calendar, January training sessions in Colorado, Oregon, and Montana have already been canceled. While existing firefighters have not been furloughed, some federal employees are unable to travel to teach the training academies, McClatchy's Washington, D.C., Bureau reports.
Wildfire seasons around the world are growing longer due to climate change, according to a 2015 study led by U.S. Forest Service ecologist Matt Jolly. California's fire season now lasts essentially year-round, and, in Colorado, fires have started as early as March.
The cherry on top of all this came Wednesday when President Donald Trump posted a tweet threatening to withhold funding from the Federal Emergency Management Agency to aid disaster relief from the Camp Fire. This may be an empty threat, but many Americans are still on edge over the state of fire safety, relief, and preparedness.
"The last thing we want is for fires to break out, and not have the kind of crews we need to field," Jim Whittington, a former employee of the U.S. Bureau of Land Management and current owner of Oregon-based crisis management consulting firm Whittington & Associates, told McClatchy.