WASHINGTON — In today’s subcommittee hearing, Representative Josh Harder (CA-10) followed President Biden’s one-year federal firefighter pay increase by pushing the House Appropriations Committee to permanently increase federal firefighter pay. He inserted new language in the House Appropriations FY22 Interior bill that directs the US Forest Service to address the pay disparity issue for federal firefighters. This effort is aimed at once and for all ending the firefighter shortage crisis facing California.
“God forbid a family has to call in a fire putting their family in danger, there should always be a crew ready to jump in the truck and keep that family safe. Passing this provision in law, which is in this bill, is what we need to bring that goal closer to reality,” said Rep. Harder.
See below for Rep. Harder’s remarks in today’s hearing:
Wildfires have become devastating across California. Last year we had 4 million acres burn and we know this year could be even worse. Despite that, we know we don’t have enough firefighters.
A third of our hotshot crews across the state of California are understaffed right now. It’s no secret why. It’s because today a federal firefighter starts at $13.45, making less than minimum wage. I think that shocks a lot of Americans. You can literally make more slinging burgers than you can from sacrificing your life and service to protecting our community.
We’ve been working on this. My colleague on this committee Ms. Herrera Beutler and I wrote a letter to the Biden Administration on this issue. Because of the letter we were able to get that to the attention of the Biden Administration. Yesterday they announced that they will be increasing the base pay of all federal firefighters to $15 an hour. A huge step in the right direction and I really want to thank this committee for making that happen.
But that’s still a temporary provision. We are going to need to do more work and there’s actually language in this bill to help us work with the Forest Service to determine how we make sure we are structurally compensating our firefighters at the right level to make sure we don’t have these chronic shortages. That’s not just good for our 15,000 federal firefighters, that’s good for the communities that they protect.
God forbid a family has to call in a fire putting their family in danger, there should always be a crew ready to jump in the truck and keep that family safe. Passing this provision in law, which is in this bill, is what we need to bring that goal closer to reality.
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