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Neguse, Connolly Lead Bipartisan Legislation to Increase Federal Firefighter Pay

Today, Congressman Joe Neguse (D-CO), Co-Chair of the Bipartisan Wildfire Caucus and Ranking Member of the United States House Subcommittee on Federal Lands, introduced the Wildland Firefighter Paycheck Protection Act, bipartisan, bicameral legislation to increase firefighter pay – bolstering recruitment, retention, and well-being, which will improve wildfire readiness, alongside Representatives Gerry Connolly (D-VA), Brian Fitzpatrick (R-PA), Katie Porter (D-CA), Josh Harder (D-CA), Rep. Scott Franklin (R-FL), and Lori Chavez-DeRemer (R-OR). Senator Kyrsten Sinema (I-AZ) introduced this legislation in the Senate, along with Senators John Barrasso (R-WY), Joe Manchin (D-WV), Steve Daines (R-MT), Alex Padilla (D-CA), and Jon Tester (D-MT).

This legislation incorporates parts of the pay provisions from Tim’s Act, Congressman Neguse’s comprehensive firefighter pay and benefits legislation. Tim’s Act is named in honor of Tim Hart, a brave smokejumper from Cody, Wyoming, who tragically lost his life on May 24, 2021, while battling the Eicks Fire in New Mexico. 

Since taking office, Congressman Neguse has worked tirelessly to bring federal resources home to recovering communities and advocate for increased support for wildland firefighters, wildfire prevention, and forest management. Tim’s Act would increase base pay, improve deployment pay, support enhanced pay management oversight, and boost firefighter physical and mental well-being by ensuring firefighters receive paid rest and recuperation leave.

In 2021, President Biden enacted elements of Tim’s Act through the implementation of the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law. The Bipartisan Infrastructure Law created a new classification series specifically for wildland firefighters, temporarily increased pay, and established new support systems for firefighters through mental health services.

The temporary pay increase expires on September 30th, 2023, making it necessary to pass the Wildland Firefighter Paycheck Protection Act ahead of this deadline. This bill will permanently increase federal firefighter pay and will open the door for additional pay and benefit improvements from Tim’s Act.

“Our federal wildland firefighters are on the frontlines of every wildfire in our country. They are irreplaceable. For years, many of us have fought to secure critical pay raises for these brave first responders, which we successfully enacted in the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, and it is simply unacceptable and inexcusable for Congress to not immediately renew these provisions,” said Congressman Neguse. “However, while the Wildland Firefighter Paycheck Protection Act is an important starting point, it cannot be the finish line. We need to pass this legislation to ensure our federal firefighters are fairly paid, but our work is not over. I will continue to advocate for the passage and enactment of Tim’s Act – making certain our federal firefighters have the support they deserve.”

“These courageous men and women work grueling hours in the most difficult of circumstances,” said Congressman Connolly. “It is our absolute responsibility to provide them with fair compensation and fix this looming issue expeditiously. I thank Congressman Neguse for his steadfast leadership on this issue.”

“Our federal wildland firefighters are our primary line of defense against wildfires,” said Congressman Fitzpatrick. “The bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act made critical investments and temporarily authorized pay increases for these brave men and women on the frontlines. I am proud to join my bipartisan colleagues in leading the Tim’s Act which will ensure our federal firefighters can keep this critical pay increase, as well as access to mental health resources and adequate time off for recovery.”

“Californians count on wildland firefighters to keep us safe; docking their pay and benefits, as we already face a recruitment and retention crisis, is simply not an option,” said Congresswoman Porter. “I am proud to back this legislation to stave off the worst harms of this fall’s firefighter pay cliff, but Congress has a lot more work to do to maintain a strong wildland firefighter workforce.”

“Wildland firefighters endure hellish conditions often living in remote areas for weeks on end, inhaling hazardous smoke, and enduring temperatures of up to 1,300 degrees Fahrenheit, all the while working for up to 18 hours a day to protect our families,” said Congressman Harder. “At the very least, they deserve a living wage and support for their mental and physical health. We can’t risk losing any more of our wildland firefighting force in the middle of wildfire season while more and more devastating wildfires put our homes and air quality at risk.”

“I’m honored to join this bipartisan effort in support of our wildland firefighters, who run towards danger to keep our communities safe. Unfortunately, time is running out to ensure they continue receiving the pay they deserve. The Wildland Firefighter Paycheck Protection Act is urgently needed legislation that will ensure these courageous heroes are well compensated for their selfless dedication and service to battling dangerous wildfires,” said Congresswoman Chavez-DeRemer.

“In terms of addressing the growing wildfire crisis throughout the United States, the Wildland Firefighter Paycheck Protection Act (WFPPA) is absolutely critical to prevent the worst-case scenario within the federal wildland firefighting services this year. If the provisions within this law do not pass by September 30, federal wildland firefighters will endure a pay cliff of a 50% cut to their base pay, up to $20,000. If this happens, a mass exodus of highly specialized firefighters will begin that may be impossible to stop,” said National Federation of Federal Employees (NFFE) President Randy Erwin. “Thankfully, there is a tremendous amount of bipartisan support for the WFPPA in both the House and Senate. In addition to continuing existing practices on pay, the bill recognizes the 24/7 working life of wildland firefighters while on assignment, and it calls attention to the burnout and exhaustion that these firefighters experience throughout the year. I call upon every member of the Congress to pass this bill quickly. The WFPPA represents a first step in modernizing the federal wildland fire services so that in the future, the country can see fewer smoky days."

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