2021 California Monument Fire - Engine crew battles flames
Up to 50% of federal wildland firefighters could resign immediately if Congress doesn’t extend their pay increase before the September 30th deadline
September 27, 2023- WASHINGTON – On Tuesday, Representative Josh Harder (CA-9) blasted his congressional colleagues for their inaction on the impending wildland firefighter pay cut disaster. If Congress does not pass Rep. Harder’s bipartisan bill to protect firefighter pay by September 30th, up to 50% of wildland firefighters are predicted to resign.
“I’m completely fed up. Wildland firefighters are out there right now putting their lives on the line to protect our families. And yet politicians in D.C. clearly don’t give a damn about them.” said Rep. Harder. “The deadline is Saturday for Congress to do the right thing and get these heroes the pay they deserve. If not, we’ll all be dealing with the consequences next wildfire season. My message to my colleagues is simple: Step up, put politics aside and get this done.”
The firefighters’ pay increase amounts to around $20,000 or 50% of base pay and includes newly established physical and mental health benefits. Wildland firefighters often live in remote areas for weeks on end, are exposed to hazardous smoke, and endure temperatures of up to 1,300 degrees Fahrenheit – all while working for up to 18 hours a day. In addition to the brutal physical working conditions, wildland firefighters are 12 times more likely to pass away from suicide than the general public.
This continues Rep. Harder’s work to support local firefighters, increase firefighter pay, and manage a lengthening wildfire season. Rep. Harder fought to secure the critical pay increase set to expire on September 30th. In June, he introduced legislation to protect local fire departments by ensuring they are quickly repaid for fighting fires on federal land and fixing the fire department repayment system.
Source: Representative Josh Harder