President Joe Biden is raising federal firefighter pay to $15 an hour and giving retention incentives.
The raise comes as western states battle with deadly heatwaves and wildfires.
“Because of climate change, woodland firefighting is no longer a seasonal endeavor,” a White House fact sheet said.
The President met virtually with governors from Western states on Wednesday.
“We’re remembering the horrific scenes from last year. Orange skies that looked like End of Days, smoke and ash that made the air dangerous to breathe, more than 10 million acres burned, billions of dollars in economic damage, families that lost their homes and everything they own. And too many, too many lost lives,” President Biden said during the virtual meeting.
9,000 firefighters have been sent to the West Coast to help with fires.
“I want to note that the extreme heat we’re seeing in the west is not only a risk amplifier for wildfires, it’s a threat in and of itself. People are hurting. It’s more dangerous for kids to play outside. Roads are buckling under the heat. Again, I need not tell all of you: We need people to check on their neighbors especially seniors who may need a helping hand.”
While meeting with the Federal Emergency Management Agency last week, the President acknowledged the federal wage for firefighters.
“I just realized — I didn’t realize this, I have to 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,” Biden said.
The Biden administration is looking to extend seasonal hiring for firefighters, hire more firefighters, and train more federal employees and military service members to fight fires.
“The goal here this year, because we have had a very short runway in getting prepared, has been to find ways to address what we learned, which is that there is this challenge with respect to both recruitment and retention of firefighters that we need across the nation,” an official said.
“We’re going to work on additional measures with Congress to move beyond these short-term solutions to address, longer-term needs with respect to compensation and benefits, and work-life balance reforms for federal wildlife, land, firefighters.”
At least 50 wildfires are burning across 11 states.