Merkley Applauds Biden Administration Decision to Give Wildland Firefighters A Raise

Washington, D.C. – Oregon’s U.S. Senator Jeff Merkley—the Chair of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee that funds the U.S. Department of the Interior and U.S. Forest Service—released the following statement today, after the Biden administration announced higher wages and new incentives for wildland firefighters:

“Last year alone, over one million acres of land went up in flames in Oregon—claiming lives, destroying homes, businesses, and entire communities, and blanketing every corner of the state with hazardous smoke. In the face of that devastation and tragedy, our heroic firefighters worked around the clock under extremely difficult circumstances to control the fires and protect our families, friends, and neighbors.

“And for many of our federal firefighters, the unprecedented fire event that broke out over Labor Day in our state wasn’t even the beginning or the end of an especially grueling chapter. Many began 2020 by boarding planes to Australia to assist in the fight against their tragic wildland fires, and began this year by volunteering to get shots into arms to stop the spread of COVID-19.

“I am deeply appreciative of their courageous efforts, and applaud the Biden administration’s decision to give them the raises and bonuses they deserve. Firefighters play a crucial role in protecting our communities from wildfires, and I am fully committed to working alongside the administration to ensure that they are paid a living wage and given the support they need to keep up their great work in the years to come.”

Merkley has long been a vocal advocate for the allocation of federal resources to support firefighting efforts, and has been using his new Appropriations Subcommittee Chairmanship to make the case for substantial investments to promote forest resilience for climate change and catastrophic wildfire