Washington, D.C. – Chair Raúl M. Grijalva (D-Ariz.) and Reps. Joe Neguse (D-Colo.), chair of the Subcommittee on National Parks, Forests, and Public Lands, and Katie Porter (D-Calif.), chair of the Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations, hailed the announcement today that President Biden will guarantee wildland firefighters are paid at least $15 per hour this year. Biden announced that his administration will also provide other incentives, including retention bonus of up to 10 percent of salary for permanent firefighters up to the GS-9 level and an award of $1,000 for temporary firefighters that commit to working through this season, in recognition of the need to maintain and support professional fire response through the year.
Biden’s announcement comes shortly after Neguse led an April 29 Subcommittee hearing titled Wildfire in a Warming World: Opportunities to Improve Community Collaboration, Climate Resilience, and Workforce Capacity, which included testimony from Riva Duncan of Grassroots Wildland Firefighters on why such moves are necessary to fairly compensate hardworking firefighters and keep talented people in the field.
“The country is seeing unheard-of temperature records and the West is in the grip of a drought that nobody is sure will end any time soon,” Grijalva said. “Taking climate change seriously means paying workers fairly to handle the impacts just as much as it means making new investments in cleaner energy sources. The Biden administration is right to recognize that we’ve taken wildland firefighters for granted for too long, and I’m hopeful this is the start of a more permanent solution to this issue.”
“As wildfire seasons turn into wildfire years, exacerbated by the growing threat of climate change, our firefighters are put in increasingly dangerous conditions, battling more intense and more devastating wildfires,” Neguse said. “In 2020, as Colorado experienced a record-setting wildfire season, our local fire crews were in the field for weeks working to suppress the largest wildfires in state history. Now more than ever, this critical profession must receive a comfortable, livable wage, one that reflects the hazardous conditions they endure and the extensive training required of them. Last fall, as the Cameron Peak, East Troublesome, Calwood, Lefthand Canyon and Williams Forks Fires burned in our district, we called on the Department of the Interior to review the pay scale for federal firefighters, something I believe to be absolutely critical to support and expand our firefighting workforce. I applaud President Biden’s action today to raise federal firefighter pay to at least $15 an hour, and look forward to continuing to partner with his Administration to support firefighters and ensure our communities have the federal resources they need to tackle these wildfires. Additionally, my office plans to introduce legislation this summer to further raise firefighter pay and support our fire crews.”
“Firefighters put their lives on the line to keep our communities safe, yet many don’t make a living wage,” Porter said. “It’s no mystery why so many of these jobs are unfilled, putting us all at risk—especially as we experience record-breaking wildfire seasons year after year. As a member of the Natural Resources Committee, I’ve been an advocate for raising their pay, and I applaud the Administration for stepping up and committing to pay federal firefighters at least $15 an hour.”
In addition to the April 29 hearing, the Natural Resources Committee held a forum in June of 2020 titled Examining Coronavirus Impacts on Wildland Fire Operations and Vulnerable Communities, which included an in-depth discussion of how state agencies were planning for what turned out to be a severe fire season in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.
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