Pay bump for wildland firefighters set to expire, up to 50% could quit

FOX 12

Politicians are warning that if they don’t do something, as many as half of all federal firefighters could walk off the job due to a huge pay cut that could happen next month.

A short-term measure passed last year gave federal firefighters a big boost in pay. It was passed as a way to help recruit and retain firefighters but it’s now set to expire in early November.

The pay bump was an additional $20,000 a year, or 50% of a firefighter’s base salary, whichever was smaller.

Now, some politicians worry that if the pay increase isn’t made permanent, a large portion of those firefighters could quit to find higher paying jobs.

Senator Jeff Merkley and Senator Ron Wyden have urged Congress to make the raise permanent, noting the threat that wildfires pose to the country. They say the threat of fires has made it harder to find and keep wildland firefighters on the job.

Across the country, politicians and wildfire officials worry what could happen if a deal on pay isn’t made.

“They dedicate so much of their lives doing the most dangerous, difficult work that’s available in our country, and they do it because they have a passion.”

A Colorado congressman has introduced bipartisan legislation that would make the pay raises permanent. However, that legislation is stalled right now in the House, which still doesn’t have a Speaker.

The National Federation of Federal Employees, which represents around 10,000 wildland firefighters, has estimated that 30% to 50% of federal firefighters could resign if the pay raises aren’t made permanent.

In a letter written by Wyden and Merkley, along with other U.S. senators, they say that the acres burned by wildfires has doubled in the last 20 years, and wildfires pose a grave environmental and economic threat to the country.