Gluesenkamp Perez, Bipartisan Colleagues Call for Swift Passage of Wildland Firefighter Pay Fix As Wildfire Season Begins

Jul 01, 2024
Press
Reps. Gluesenkamp Perez and Gallego meet with wildland firefighters from across the country, including Washington state.

Last week, Rep. Marie Gluesenkamp Perez (WA-03), along with Assistant Minority Leader Joe Neguse (CO-02) and Reps. Ruben Gallego (AZ-03) and Jack Bergman (MI-01), joined visiting wildland firefighters at the Capitol to call for the swift passage of the Wildland Firefighter Paycheck Protection Act.

In 2021, the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law provided a temporary pay raise for federal wildland firefighters, but that raise is set to expire on September 30. If allowed to expire, wildland firefighters could see their pay cut by as much as 50 percent. If this happens, it would likely cause thousands of firefighters to leave the federal workforce.

To avoid this devastating pay cliff, Rep. Gluesenkamp Perez cosponsored the Wildland Firefighter Paycheck Protection Act and is fighting for its passage, which would make the new pay structure permanent. 

“Wildland firefighters are the first line of defense for many across Southwest Washington, but their jobs are tough. They choose to spend their summers felling trees, digging lines, and sleeping in tents in sweltering heat. Their tireless self-sacrifice is an example to all of us, and it should continue to be honored through fair compensation,” said Rep. Gluesenkamp Perez. “With pay raises due to sunset in September, we could lose thousands of firefighters as they face a difficult choice of covering rent or continuing to serve their community. Congress needs to pass our bipartisan Wildland Firefighter Paycheck Protection Act to support our tireless wildland firefighters and protect the rural communities they help defend.”

Rep. Gluesenkamp Perez is a member of the bipartisan Congressional Fire Services Caucus and fought to pass the bipartisan Fire Grants and Safety Act, which will ensure grant funding Southwest Washington fire departments rely on remains available through 2030.

Earlier this month, Rep. Gluesenkamp Perez held a childcare roundtable with Southwest Washington first responders – and she has also met with local fire chiefs and commissioners across Southwest Washington. After the Tunnel 5 Fire broke out in Skamania County last summer, Rep. Gluesenkamp Perez visited the fireline to hear from firefighters firsthand.

“Our wildland firefighters, who make incredible sacrifices everyday, are severely underpaid. If we do not make the pay raise from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law permanent, countless communities will see fewer first responders,” said Assistant Minority Leader Neguse. “Congress must act now and move the Wildland Firefighter Paycheck Protection Act across the finish line.”

“With wildfire seasons getting longer and more dangerous, wildland firefighters play an increasingly important role in keeping Arizonans safe. We should be supporting these brave men and women, but instead, they are being forced to work with the looming threat of a pay cut,” said Rep. Gallego. “It’s past time we pass legislation to protect their pay structure, and I am proud to lead this bipartisan group of members in bringing attention to this issue today.”

“Maintaining a strong federal firefighter workforce is critical – and if firefighters can’t support themselves and their families financially, we can’t expect them to support our communities through the often life-saving services they provide. Workforce retention is particularly important in the First District, as the U.P. and Northern Michigan are home to three National Forests: Ottawa, Hiawatha, and Huron-Manistee,” said Rep. Bergman. “This legislation, H.R. 5169, would effectively codify a higher pay scale, permanently increasing federal firefighter salaries and giving them the appreciation they deserve.”

“Federal Wildland Firefighters have been overlooked for too long. This workforce is hanging on by a thread and waiting on Congress to act,” said Maximo Alonzo with the National Federation of Federal Employees. “The National Federation of Federal Employees would like to thank all our friends in Congress that have signed onto H.R. 5169. Without pay reform we will lose this essential workforce along with natural resources, communities, and lives.”

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