With fire season approaching again in the drought-hit western United States, Jaelith Hall-Rivera, a senior U.S. Forest Service official, assured lawmakers this month that federal firefighting crews would be sufficiently staffed and ready for action.

"We will be at the capacity that we need," she told Congress, days before the government said the first three months of 2022 were the driest on record in parts of the West and predicted a "significant" risk of wildfires starting in May.

But federal firefighters on the front lines of the climate-change-fueled blazes said that crews tasked with combating them are vastly understaffed this year — and fear sufficient help will not be coming soon.