Washington—Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) today released the following statement in support of the actions announced today by the Biden administration to help raise federal wildland firefighter pay and increase the benefits and support for this critical workforce:
“Wildfires are one of the most critical challenges facing the West, particularly California. Although 58 percent of the forestland in California is under federal control, the federal agencies have faced chronic wildland firefighter staffing shortages. That’s one reason wildfire issues have been my top priority for years, with none more important than supporting federal wildland firefighters.
“Federal wildland firefighters have consistently cited low pay as the primary barrier to recruiting more firefighters. So I’m pleased the Biden administration has announced it will begin using the $600 million from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law to process pay increases for wildland firefighters in the coming weeks. I have long advocated for increased pay in order to better recruit and retain wildland firefighters, and this will help toward that goal.
“The administration also announced it has established a new occupational series for federal wildland firefighters, an action I have advocated for years. By taking this action, OPM will finally align the work done by federal wildland firefighters with the compensation they deserve. Properly defining the job of a wildland firefighter will boost recruitment and retention, provide a clearer career path for these individuals and allow the agency to be more responsive to the particular needs of these employees.
“Interior Secretary Haaland’s announcement that the administration will create a new interagency wildland firefighter health and wellbeing program is another step in the right direction. The job of a wildland firefighter is incredibly difficult and dangerous, and we must do all we can to support the wellbeing of these individuals. Combined with recent progress we’ve made on improving the health care for firefighters, this is an important step forward.
“Federal wildland firefighters are a critical line of defense in the West, particularly as drought conditions worsen. We must recruit and retain these skilled workers, and that means providing them with the pay and benefits commensurate with their importance. I will continue to work toward this goal and am grateful to have the Biden administration as a partner.”