Union warns 50% of federal wildland firefighters will quit over pay drop

By Michel Marizco
Published: Monday, September 18, 2023 - 2:26pm
Updated: Saturday, September 23, 2023 - 5:08pm

Three people move brush and limbs in the forest
Crews prepping and clearing on the Valentine Fire on Aug. 25, 2023

The union representing federal employees is warning that the country could lose up to half its wildland firefighters unless Congress acts ahead of a sunset to a pay raise that dries up in two weeks.

It’s been two years since a temporary raise for wildland firefighters was built into the bipartisan infrastructure law. It allowed for an increase to base pay of $20,000, or 50 percent of a firefighter’s salary. It also increased hourly pay to $15. But funding runs out on Oct. 1.

The National Federation of Federal Employees says firefighters won’t be able to survive five-figure pay cuts.

"If we lose this at the end of the month, we’re going to see 30 to 50% of our federal sector wildland firefighters walk out the door," said Max Alonzo with the National Federation of Federal Employees.

Two bills winding their way through Congress, including one introduced by Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, would ease pay cut threats for firefighters.

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