WASHINGTON, D.C. — The White House has committed to raising the minimum pay of federal firefighters to $15 an hour this year as part of its efforts to address the growing wildfire threat.
President Joe Biden announced the raise in pay at a press conference on Wednesday. Though, he still doesn’t believe it’s enough for the men and women battling fires.
Additionally, the Biden administration says permanent firefighters working on the front lines paid at up to a GS-9 level will receive up to a 10% retention incentive, and temporary workers who commit to continue this season would receive a $1,000 Spot/Star Award this year.
"This year, we're going to provide retention incentives that's going to ensure federal wildland firefighters are making at least $15 an hour and provide for additional 10% bonuses for those working on the front lines,” said Biden. “But a one-time boost is not enough. These courageous women and men take an incredible risk of running toward the fires, and they deserve to be paid and paid good wages."
The White House called these actions “short-term solutions” to support federal firefighters. From supporting COVID-19 efforts to fighting wildfires, the administration says these crews have been on nearly nonstop deployments since January 2020.
The administration says it will work with Congress on “longer-term” reforms to these firefighters’ compensation, benefits, and work-life balance.
These actions by the White House come about a week after Biden acknowledged the low pay of firefighters at a FEMA briefing.
“There’s an old expression: God made man. Then he made a few firefighters,” said Biden, according to a pool report. “They have a higher incidence of severe injuries than police officers do. They are incredibly, incredibly brave at what they do…. And I just realized—I didn’t realize this, I admit—that federal firefighters get paid $13 an hour. That’s going to end in my administration. That’s a ridiculously low salary to pay federal firefighters.”