Wildfire hearing mulls forest management, firefighter pay

By Marc Heller | 03/13/2024 06:40 AM EDT

Despite wide support, a permanent raise for federal firefighters continues to elude Congress.

Wildland firefighter.

A wildland firefighter walks through smoke and haze on Dec. 30, 2021, after a fast-moving wildfire swept through Louisville, Colorado, and the surrounding region. Marc Piscotty/Getty Images

Lawmakers and Biden administration officials agreed Tuesday that federal wildfire crews deserve a permanent raise that’s so far failed to materialize.

At a Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee hearing, officials and key senators said they support making the temporary pay bump that’s appeared in recent appropriations a long term feature of federal spending, echoing a recommendation last fall from a wildland fire commission.

“It clearly needs to be permanent,” said Sen. Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.), addressing administration officials, as well as members of the commission called to testify. “We need to send a clear signal to these firefighters.”


The prospect of a permanent raise has floated in Congress since the administration temporarily gave firefighters an increase of $20,000 or 50 percent, depending on their location, in 2021.