June 21, 2022
WASHINGTON, D.C. — U.S. Senator Angus King (I-Maine), a member of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, today welcomed news that after his forceful questioning of the Chief of the U.S. Forest Service, the White House will be giving wildland firefighters the significant pay raises that were allocated by Congress in last year’s Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act. A majority of federal wildland firefighters will receive supplemental pay equivalent to a $20,000 base salary increase, retroactive to October 2021, within initial payments disbursed in the next few weeks. King has been vocally urging administration to swiftly implement the raises. Last Friday, he wrote a letter to the Office of Personnel and Management stressing how important they are for successfully managing the fires raging in America’s West, and earlier this month, he pressed Forest Service Chief Randy Moore, saying that the delay was “unfair to [firefighters] and unfair to the people who are victims to these fires.”
“America’s wildland firefighters do dangerous and complex work that saves lives across our country. As the fire season grows more damaging and salaries remain stagnant despite inflation, many of these brave firefighters are struggling just to make ends meet despite risking their lives to protect our communities. That is unacceptable,” said Senator King. “This unfair pay disparity is why Congress included a significant wildland firefighter raise in the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, and why I’m glad President Biden is finally delivering the well-deserved pay. The raises will be crucial for firefighter recruitment, retention, and morale, and are an acknowledgement of the commitment they show day-in and day-out. While this doesn’t solve all the issues facing these brave men and women, I’m happy the administration heard our calls and look forward to seeing how this supports the firefighters keeping our communities safe.”
“This is incredibly good news for federal wildland firefighters all across the country,” said Randy Erwin, president of NFFE, the union representing a majority of federal wildland firefighters. “There has been a serious recruitment and retention problem for wildland firefighters at federal agencies this year. Firefighters simply could not make ends meet on the hopelessly low salaries offered at federal agencies, so jobs were becoming very difficult to fill. With a worse than normal fire season underway, the inability to recruit and retain firefighters is a very serious problem that threatens communities at risk of wildfire. This announcement is going to go a long way to help federal agencies fill depleted ranks. This will be life-changing for thousands of federal wildland firefighters who truly deserve it.”
Senator King has been a fierce advocate for America’s wildland firefighters. He worked to include $600 million to raise federal wildland firefighter salaries in the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, and has pushed the administration on delays in implementing the pay increases ahead of this year’s fire season. Last week, he joined a group of his Senate colleagues are calling on the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) to swiftly deliver the raises, stressing how important they are for firefighter retention and successfully managing the fires raging in America’s West. Earlier this month, he pushed Forest Service Chief Randy Moore on the unacceptable burden the delays were placing on the firefighters and the communities who rely on them.