Trending Topics

Federal wildland firefighters could see base pay increase of $20K

With signing the infrastructure bill into law, Biden advances reforms focused on wildland firefighter job classifications, base salaries and year-round employment


President Joe Biden signs the $1.2 trillion bipartisan infrastructure bill into law during a ceremony on the South Lawn of the White House on Nov. 15, 2021.

AP Photo/Susan Walsh

By FireRescue1 staff

WASHINGTON — President Biden signed the $1.2 trillion Infrastructure Investment and Jobs into law on Monday, solidifying several significant changes for federal wildland firefighters.

Some federal wildland firefighters will see their positions shift to a new occupational series classification appropriately labeled “wildland firefighter.” This is a change from the current classification as “forestry technician,” for which entry-level hires often start at a GS-3 salary. The Administration’s Office of Personnel Management has now been tasked with creating the new series for wildland firefighters within 180 days.

Along with the classification change comes the opportunity for federal wildland firefighters to receive a significant increase their base pay. Specifically, agencies are instructed to provide “an increase in base salary of 50% or $20,000 – whichever is smaller – for wildland firefighters if the agency heads ‘make a written determination’ that the position is located in a region where it is difficult to recruit or retain firefighters,” according to Government Executive.

Earlier this year, Biden addressed federal wildland firefighter wages, saying of the $13 per hour wage, “That’s a ridiculously low salary to pay federal firefighters. … That’s going to end in my administration.”

Biden instituted a temporary pay raise in the form of bonuses and awards to reach least $15 per hour. The infrastructure bill now provides the pay increases on a permanent basis.

Further, the bill requires the Department of the Interior and Department of Agriculture to convert at least 1,000 seasonal wildland firefighters to permanent, full-time and year-round federal workers. The agencies must also develop recommendations to lessen exposure to environmental hazards and provide expanded health benefits.