WASHINGTON D.C. (KDVR) — 14,800 firefighters are about to have their hourly wages raised in an effort to get them proper compensation while pushing for a higher level of staff retainment.
On July 16, the National Wildlife Preparedness Level was raised to five for the third time in 20 years after the burning of 2.2 million acres of the country’s forests by 104 fires.
Today, Secretary of the Interior Deb Halland and Agricultural Secretary Tom Vilsack announced the initiative to ensure all firefighters are paid a minimum of $15 an hour.
The Department of the Interior currently employs 5,000 wildland firefighters all of whom have been working alongside the 14,500 firefighters managed by the USDA Forest Service.
A large portion of this workforce is currently paid less than $15 an hour, but efforts from President Biden’s administration are recognizing our frontline workers’ efforts against wildfires, most of whom are now scheduled for a pay increase starting on August 24.
$7.6 million will be awarded to 3,500 Department of the Interior employees and $24.3 million will go to 11,300 USDA Forest Service firefighters.
“As climate change brings longer fire seasons and more extreme fire behavior, we must remain steadfast in our commitment to wildland fire preparedness and response. The brave women and men on the frontlines deserve fair pay for their work to protect our families, our communities, and our lands from the increasing threat of fire,” said Secretary Haaland.
All of those set for the raise will also receive back pay of $15 an hour all the way back to June 30, 2021.
In addition to this, all temporary frontline firefighters will receive a $1,300 award while full timers will receive a bonus equal to 10% of their six-month salary.
“Supporting our brave firefighters with pay, benefits and career opportunities that reflect the importance and danger of the work that they do is critical to facing the mounting wildfire threat,” said Secretary Vilsack.
The Departments of the Interior and Agriculture are building a firefighting force for the future that aims to function year-round as opposed to the seasonal approach of the past.
In 2022, 700 seasonal positions are set to be switched to full time which will coincide with the addition of a further 235 full time jobs.
To learn more about the U.S. Department of the Interior’s wildland fire workforce and how you can get involved, visit the Wildland Fire webpage here.
You can also visit the USDA Forest Service’s fire management page for further information on their ongoing frontline efforts.