President Joe Biden on Tuesday announced additional steps to increase pay for federal firefighters as well as expand access to mental health support and establish a new wildland fire management job series for potential job seekers.
Over the coming summer months, the Biden Administration is implementing a new set of temporary pay increases that will increase the firefighters’ bi-weekly checks by up to 50 percent of their annual base salary for two years.
The pay hike will have retroactive effect from October 1, 2021.
The Federal agencies will begin processing these payments in the coming weeks, with additional payments to occur throughout July and into August. This will be funded by $600 million from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law.
A newly established joint DOI- U.S. Forest Service program will address mental health needs, including post-traumatic stress disorder care for permanent, temporary, seasonal and year-round wildland firefighters at both agencies, along with addressing environmental hazards to minimize on-the-job exposure.
The Biden Administration will work with Congress to formulate a competitive and equitable new firefighter pay structure.
“Investing in our wildland firefighting workforce is a matter of national security as there are more than 460 million acres of land at moderate to very high risk from wildfire this year, and the number of acres burned in 2021 is the highest on record,” the White House said.
For decades, Federal wildland firefighters have faced the challenges of longer, more severe fire years with pay that has lagged behind their counterparts. Shifting development patterns, land and fire management decisions, and climate change have turned fire “seasons” into fire “years” in which increasingly destructive fires are exceeding available Federal firefighting resources.
Federal firefighters also lack an official, uniform occupational series and a clear path for career advancement through the government.
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