Tester Backs Bipartisan Bill to Increase Pay for Montana’s Wildland Firefighters

Bill to make pay increases for firefighters permanent

In his continued effort to support Montana’s wildland firefighters, U.S. Senator Jon Tester today backed the bipartisan Wildland Firefighter Paycheck Protection Act, a bill to preserve predictable, competitive pay for Montana’s wildland firefighters.

As part of his bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA), Tester championed a provision that included $600 million in temporary pay increases for wildland firefighters, by increasing wildland firefighters’ base pay up to $20,000 or 50% and allowing for firefighters additional time to rest and recover after responding to large wildfires. These pay increases for over 10,000 USDA and DOI wildland firefighters, including hundreds in Montana, are set to expire September 30th without Tester’s legislation.

“Montana’s wildland firefighters put their lives on the line to protect our communities and public lands, and the least we can do is ensure fair and competitive pay for the work they do,” said Tester. “This fire season, these brave men and women are our first line of defense against disaster, and they’ve earned the right to be fairly compensated for the dangerous work they do—including for adequate recovery time after a tough fire. Our bipartisan bill will make that compensation permanent, and I’ll be fighting to get it across the finish line in Congress.”

In addition to making the pay increases permanent, Tester’s bill would provide wildland firefighters with more consistent, predictable, and competitive pay while alleviating physical and mental burnout by providing them the ability to rest and recover after responding to large wildfires. This legislation is supported by the National Federation of Federal Employees.

Tester has consistently pushed for long-term solutions to increase wildfire protection and preparedness and ensure fair pay and support for Montana’s firefighters. Last month, he joined a bipartisan letter urging the Senate Committee on Homeland Security & Governmental Affairs to swiftly consider legislation that authorizes a long-term solution to increase wildland firefighter recruitment and retention. Last May, he also led a bipartisan effort to urge the Biden Administration to fully implement increased pay for wildland firefighters.

Tester currently serves as Chair of the Congressional Fire Services Caucus, where he has been a champion in the effort to support firefighters and provide relief for communities most affected by wildfires in Montana. Last December, Tester passed his Fair RETIRE Act to ensure that federal firefighters and other federal employees receive their full retirement benefits. That same month, Congress passed Tester’s Fairness for Federal Firefighters Act to expand workers’ compensation and disability retirement benefits for federal firefighters, and Tester secured $4.4 billion for wildfire suppression in Montana through the 2023 government funding package.

You can read more about Tester’s efforts to support state and federal firefighters here.