has a year-round fire season (consider the Camp Fire, the largest and most-destructive fire in state history, broke out in November). A fire with the size and strength of the County Fire and others could easily break out anywhere, including Yolo County, and if it does, it wouldn’t be unusual to see U.S. Forest Service firefighters joining the fight. Except this time, those federal firefighters would be working without pay. Earlier this month, the U.S. Forest Service and its parent agency, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, announced it was one of dozens of federal organizations affected by a partial government shutdown. Since then, press reports have largely focused on an increase in garbage and vandalism at national parks, including Yosemite, because those parks are operating with skeleton crews that are unable to accommodate the increase in holiday visitors (the parks are technically closed but still accessible to the public). Little has been made about the other Agriculture Department employees that are forced to work throughout the shutdown despite a lapse in federal funding. Among the Agriculture Department employees that are expected to work without pay: Firefighters with the U.S. Forest Service; meat, poultry and egg inspectors and grain inspectors and weighers (the latter is funded through outside sources). Until the government shutdown is resolved, some 5,000 U.S. Forest Service firefighters are expected to continue working without pay. Studies have shown that the number one cause of low morale among workers is a lack of adequate pay; add to that the stress and pressures of fighting a wildfire, and it could mean disaster. Even without a major wildfire, a lot of work happens behind-the-scenes to prepare for the hotter months. In Alaska, firefighters there say now is the time of year when state and federal firefighters come together to prepare for summer wildfires. But right now, it’s hard to find federal firefighters at the Alaska Fire Service. “They’re working on cooperator agreements with local fire departments that we have in communities around the state, so that when there’s a fire we can call on them to help us out and they are reimbursed for their time and use of equipment,” a fire official told Alaska Public Media. Federal firefighters, who are classified as “excepted employees,” will receive backpay when the shutdown ends. In the meantime, a number of local credit agencies — including Yolo Federal Credit Union and Golden1 — are offering payment assistance loans to impacted federal workers. The loan offered by Yolo Federal comes with a zero percent interest as long as its paid in full once the shutdown ends; Golden1 did not reveal terms of its loans, but said employees must be members of the credit union and that loans were subject to approval. While federal firefighters and other excepted employees might be able to pay back those loans in a quick manner once they get paid, some employees may not be so fortunate: Many other workers aren’t getting paid because they’re not allowed to come to work during the shutdown. Those staffers include employees at the Agriculture Department’s various county offices, which closed last month in anticipation of the shutdown.
From firefighters to farmers: How the federal shutdown impacts Yolo County
The USDA and U.S. Forest Service are among the agencies furloughing employees during the partial government shutdown