The U.S. Senate bill-S.3221 – Wildland Firefighter Fair Pay Act is set to remove overtime pay caps for wildland firefighters after an ongoing battle over the issue. Federal crews in both the U.S. Departments of the Interior and Agriculture face annual overtime limits. Most years, they exceed those limits. This raises concern as fire seasons grow longer and cause multifaceted, increasingly complex fires.
The U.S. Forest Service estimates that up to 500 supervisors either stop working or continue to work without compensation upon hitting the pay cap each year. The bill corrects this harm by providing a legislative fix, ensuring firefighters are adequately compensated for overtime work and increasing possible annual pay.
Arizona senior Senator Kyrsten Sinema, building on her work to protect fair pay for wildland firefighters with the Wildland Firefighter Paycheck Protection Act, which protects a pay raise for wildland firefighters, cosponsored the similarly-named Wildland Firefighter Fair Pay Act– bipartisan legislation aimed at changing existing wildland firefighter salary caps.
According Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, the Wildland Firefighter Fair Pay Act will ensure firefighters receive fair overtime time pay.
“We’re doubling down on our efforts to ensure fairer pay for wildland firefighters as they put their lives on the line to protect Arizona communities,” said Sinema, lead sponsor of the Act.
“This bill complements existing federal efforts like the Wildland Firefighter Paycheck Protection Act, which would permanently increase the salary of wildland firefighters. The Bipartisan Infrastructure Law provided a temporary pay fix for federal firefighters and was recently extended through the Continuing Resolution,” said U.S. Senator Alex Padilla (D-CA).
What the Wildland Firefighter Fair Pay Act would do:
- Provide a permanent statutory fix for wildland firefighter pay caps, increasing the total possible salary from GS 15 – Step 10 to Senior Executive Service II.
- Expand eligible employees to include National Weather Service meteorologists who deploy with firefighters for the hours they work on wildfires.
- Require a joint report from the Department of Agriculture, Department of the Interior, and the National Weather Service on the necessary staffing levels of wildland firefights and incident meteorologists.
The Wildland Firefighter Fair Pay Act is endorsed by Grassroots Wildland Firefighters and the National Federation of Federal Employees.
S.2272 – Wildland Firefighter Paycheck Protection Act of 2023 and S.3221 – Wildland Firefighter Fair Pay Act have been introduced into the Senate and reports are required.—Not later than March 30, 2024.
JT Morgan-Journalist for Mountain Daily Star
Picture Curtesy Molly K Ottman Executive Editor/Senior Journalist