Federal wildland firefighters could see base pay increase of $20K

With signing the infrastructure bill into law, Biden advances reforms focused on wildland firefighter job classifications, base salaries and year-round employment


By FireRescue1 staff

WASHINGTON — President Biden signed the $1.2 trillion Infrastructure Investment and Jobs into law on Monday, solidifying several significant changes for federal wildland firefighters.

Some federal wildland firefighters will see their positions shift to a new occupational series classification appropriately labeled “wildland firefighter.” This is a change from the current classification as “forestry technician,” for which entry-level hires often start at a GS-3 salary. The Administration’s Office of Personnel Management has now been tasked with creating the new series for wildland firefighters within 180 days.

President Joe Biden signs the $1.2 trillion bipartisan infrastructure bill into law during a ceremony on the South Lawn of the White House on Nov. 15, 2021.
President Joe Biden signs the $1.2 trillion bipartisan infrastructure bill into law during a ceremony on the South Lawn of the White House on Nov. 15, 2021. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

Along with the classification change comes the opportunity for federal wildland firefighters to receive a significant increase their base pay. Specifically, agencies are instructed to provide “an increase in base salary of 50% or $20,000 – whichever is smaller – for wildland firefighters if the agency heads ‘make a written determination’ that the position is located in a region where it is difficult to recruit or retain firefighters,” according to Government Executive.

Earlier this year, Biden addressed federal wildland firefighter wages, saying of the $13 per hour wage, “That’s a ridiculously low salary to pay federal firefighters. … That’s going to end in my administration.”

Biden instituted a temporary pay raise in the form of bonuses and awards to reach least $15 per hour. The infrastructure bill now provides the pay increases on a permanent basis.

Further, the bill requires the Department of the Interior and Department of Agriculture to convert at least 1,000 seasonal wildland firefighters to permanent, full-time and year-round federal workers. The agencies must also develop recommendations to lessen exposure to environmental hazards and provide expanded health benefits.

Recommended for you

Join the discussion

Copyright © 2021 Fire Chief. All rights reserved.