Tester Introduces Bill to Increase Overtime Pay for Montana’s Wildland Firefighters

Senator’s bipartisan Wildland Firefighter Fair Pay Act would increase overtime pay caps

Continuing his longstanding efforts to support Montana’s wildland firefighters, U.S. Senator Jon Tester today introduced his bipartisan Wildland Firefighter Fair Pay Act, a bill to increase overtime pay caps for Montana’s wildland firefighters.

Due to existing pay caps, wildland firefighters are working overtime and not being fully compensated. Tester’s legislation increases these caps to compensate them fairly for the work they do and better address the federal firefighter workforce shortage. It would also increase the cap during planned events, like prescribed fires, and expand benefits for National Weather Service meteorologists that deploy with firefighters for the hours they work on wildfires. This legislation is supported by National Federation of Federal Employees (NFFE) and Grassroots Wildland Firefighters. 

“Every fire season, Montana’s wildland firefighters put their lives on the line to keep our communities safe – but lately their government hasn’t held up their end of the bargain when it comes to fair compensation,” said Tester. “These brave men and women are Montana’s first line of defense against disastrous wildfire, often working long hours, and they should be paid a competitive wage for the dangerous, difficult work they do. With fire seasons starting earlier and earlier, I look forward to working with my Republican and Democratic colleagues to get this bill swiftly across the finish line in Congress.”  

Tester has consistently pushed for long-term solutions to ensure fair pay and support for Montana’s 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, and he isleading the charge to make this pay increase permanent. 

In June, 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.