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Tuesday, July 23rd, 2024

Measure seeks to bolster enhanced wildland firefighter recruitment

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U.S. Sens. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) and Michael Bennet (D-CO) joined 10 colleagues in forwarding correspondence to the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Government Affairs regarding wildland firefighter recruitment and retention.

“We urge the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Government Affairs’ swift consideration of legislation that authorizes a long-term solution to increase wildland firefighter recruitment and retention,” the legislators wrote to Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Government Affairs Chairman Sen. Gary Peters (D-MI) and Ranking Member Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY). “Bipartisan, bicameral efforts during the 117th Congress – including the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act provided temporary relief to the federal wildland firefighter workforce through a short-term pay increase of $20,000 or 50 percent of their base salary. This relief will expire on Sept. 30, 2023 for the over 16,000 USDA and DOI firefighters who received temporary raises.”

The lawmakers maintain Congress must support the nation’s federal wildland firefighters and ensure the federal government has a robust and resilient workforce.

“Investing in our federal wildland firefighters is a matter of national security as critical infrastructure, homes, communities, structures, and natural resources are at grave and growing risk of catastrophic wildfire,” the legislators concluded. “Firefighters deserve fair pay, support for their mental and physical health, and time to recover from their dangerous work. In a future with increasingly catastrophic wildfires, Congress cannot wait to ensure that the federal government has the necessary workforce to protect communities.”

Within the letter lawmakers cited National Interagency Fire Center statistics indicating the total acres burned by wildfire has doubled in the last 20 years, with over 7.5 million acres burned last year.