Today, Congressman Doug LaMalfa introduced the Fair Pay for Federal Firefighters Act. This bill will establish a new base pay rate scale, with the largest increases to base pay for the firefighters at the lowest end of the pay scale. This will bring them in line with the pay rates for state and private firefighters. It increases premium pay “deployment bonuses” when firefighters are deployed to a fire camp and responding to a wildfire. It will prop up federal wildland firefighter pay for two years while Congress works on a more permanent solution, by pulling excess spending funds from the “Inflation Reduction Act” that the Biden Administration admitted they would not spend. It also includes common-sense forest management provisions.
“Wildland firefighters have some of the toughest jobs out there – their pay needs to reflect the hazardous nature of their work,” LaMalfa said. “We are in the middle of another fire season and firefighters’ current bonus pay is about to run short from Biden’s Jobs Act three years early. It’s critical that Congress moves swiftly to ensure that federal wildland firefighters don’t leave the workforce due to fear that they’ll take a substantial pay cut unexpectedly in only two months. My bill ensures that federal firefighters get adequate pay, while repurposing existing funds to be fiscally responsible.”
In November 2021, Congress passed the partisan Democrat $1.2 trillion “Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act” which contained a section which provided $600 million, split into $480 million for USDA and $120 million for Interior. This money was supposed to last from Oct. 1, 2021, to Sept. 30, 2026 to increase the base pay for wildland firefighters by $20,000 or 50 percent (whichever is less).
Due to lack of foresight and poor management by the Biden Administration, USDA has told Congress that this funding will run out at the end of September 2023, three years early. As a result, there will be immediate cuts in federal wildland firefighter pay in the middle of this year’s fire season. This legislation prevents those cuts.