Pay for new federal firefighters can start at $11
President Joe Biden is bumping up pay for federal firefighters to no less than $15 an hour as crews head into a wildfire season which is feared could be even worse than last year’s historic blazes.
It is another step by the administration to boost the country’s preparedness in the face of increasingly extreme disasters that are being exacerbated by the climate crisis.
Last week President Biden expressed shock at the $13 hourly wage paid to many federal firefighters.
“That’s gonna end in my administration,” he said last week during a briefing in the Oval Office, banging the table for emphasis. “That’s a ridiculously low salary to pay federal firefighters.”
Officials at the National Interagency Fire Centre recently said they face a potential shortage of firefighters in 2021 because the starting salary is too low and people could make more working for a local business than fighting wild land blazes.
According to the Department of Interior, pay for new federal firefighters starts at $11-$14 per hour and they are eligible for overtime.
President Biden is expected to make the announcement on Wednesday morning, according to reports, as he and Vice President Kamala Harris convene Cabinet officials, governors and others from the private sector to discuss how to tackle this wildfire season with better preparedness and response.
The wildfire risk is being heightened by deadly heatwaves in the American West and a persistent drought.
The AP reported that the firefighter pay raise will come in the form of retention incentives and by providing additional bonuses to those on the front lines. More experienced permanent firefighters could also be eligible for a 10 per cent retention incentive. Temporary firefighters will be eligible to receive some incentive pay under the plan.
The official said the White House would work with Congress to pass legislation to permanently increase pay for federal firefighters.