Firefighting efforts don't come cheap | KOB 4
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Firefighting efforts don't come cheap

Emily Jaceks
May 02, 2018 06:58 PM

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. – With the severe drought New Mexico faces this year, it's likely to be a tough fire season. There have been 241 fires on state and private land.

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The financial costs of combating those fires start on the front lines.

"So one of the first things a wildland firefighter needs is protective clothing,” said Matt Rau, a fire management officer with Cibola National Forest. "Every wildland firefighter will need to have the shirt and the pants on at a minimum."

Nomex fire-resistant clothing can be expensive. Rau said these items alone can total a couple hundred dollars. Then add in a hard hat, some gloves, eye protection and one of the most expensive items to dress firefighters – their boots.

"At least 8 inches of leather up your ankle and then have a heavy-duty rubber sole that's stitched on," Rau said.

It's a significant cost to send our wildland firefighters to the battleground. Fire managers said everything from the packs to the fire shelters can add up to $1,500. That doesn't include taking care of our men and women when they get there.

"When firefighters are assigned to an incident, certainly a larger incident, we basically build a small city, to support the firefighters and their efforts," Rau said. "That includes places to set up their tents and caterers to feed them and water trucks and fuel trucks, and it literally is like a small town for their operation."

While the pay ranges from just $12 to $18 an hour, Rau said there are incentives that really drive up their pay.

"They can receive hazard pay that's 25 percent of their base pay," he said. "We'll pay a little more for Sunday if that's not part of their regular shift. There are night differentials if they have to run a night shift, and there's overtime for anything over eight hours."

Rau said most firefighters who travel to the southwest for the fire season will work between 600 to 1,000 hours in overtime. They're paid mostly with national funds.

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Emily Jaceks

Copyright 2018 KOB-TV LLC, a Hubbard Broadcasting Company. All rights reserved

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