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Wildland Firefighter Pay Cut Deadline Looming

Speaking out on Sept. 26, Representative Josh Harder (CA-9) blasted his congressional colleagues for their inaction on the impending wildland firefighter pay cut disaster. If Congress does not pass Rep. Harder’s bipartisan bill to protect firefighter pay by Sept. 30, up to 50 percent of wildland firefighters are predicted to resign.

“I’m completely fed up. Wildland firefighters are out there right now putting their lives on the line to protect our families. And yet politicians in D.C. clearly don’t give a damn about them,” said Rep. Harder. “The deadline is Saturday for Congress to do the right thing and get these heroes the pay they deserve. If not, we’ll all be dealing with the consequences next wildfire season. My message to my colleagues is simple: Step up, put politics aside and get this done.”

The firefighters’ pay increase amounts to around $20,000 or 50 percent of base pay and includes newly established physical and mental health benefits. Wildland firefighters often live in remote areas for weeks on end, are exposed to hazardous smoke, and endure temperatures of up to 1,300 degrees Fahrenheit – all while working for up to 18 hours a day. In addition to the brutal physical working conditions, wildland firefighters are 12 times more likely to pass away from suicide than the general public.

This bipartisan bill continues Rep. Harder’s work to support local firefighters, increase firefighter pay, and manage a lengthening wildfire season. He fought to secure the critical pay increase set to expire on September 30. In June, he introduced legislation to protect local fire departments by ensuring they are quickly repaid for fighting fires on federal land and fixing the fire department repayment system.