Our wildland firefighters are the backbone of the federal government's ability to protect public and Tribal lands, infrastructure, and communities from wildfires, but this vital profession can have significant impacts on health and wellbeing, including mental health. Those impacts are increasing as climate change propels more extreme wildfires and longer periods of wildfire activity.
The Interior and Agriculture departments, at the direction of the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, are developing a Joint Wildland Firefighter Behavioral Health Program. It will provide expanded services that address the unique experiences and mental health challenges of our wildland firefighters in our changing environment.
A planning summit for the joint program will be held in Boise, Idaho, on April 11-13. The summit will convene a wide range of wildland fire personnel, mental health experts, and agencies that have implemented successful behavioral health programs. It will provide a forum to identify specific needs, evidence-based solutions, and a framework for the program's implementation.
The new program will establish year-round prevention and mental health support training, provide post-traumatic stress care, enhance capacity for acute response, and create a system of trauma support services with an emphasis on early intervention.
By bridging existing mental health services and filling the gaps to address the full spectrum of wildland firefighter health and wellbeing needs, this program will increase access to services that build resiliency, improve mental preparedness, recognize the importance of self-care, and address the effects of cumulative stress.
This effort builds on a commitment by the Interior and Agriculture departments, with support from the Biden-Harris administration, to make historic improvements for the federal wildland firefighting workforce. Those improvements include increasing pay, creating a new occupational series to better define the unique duties and career progression of this profession, streamlining hiring processes, and converting to a more permanent workforce.
We look forward to sharing additional information with you after the planning summit.
For questions, please contact OWF_HealthWellbeing@ios.doi.gov.