Tester Leads Bipartisan Push to Recruit and Retain Wildland Firefighters

Senator and colleagues push for long term solutions: better pay, support, and time to recover

In his continued effort to support firefighters and increase wildfire protection and preparedness, U.S. Senator Jon Tester led a bipartisan group of Western Senators in urging the Senate Committee that controls firefighter policy to consider long-term solutions to recruit and retain wildland firefighters. In their letter, the Senators stress the importance of acting before short-term pay increases enacted through the bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA) are set to expire on September 30th

“As the 2023 fire season begins, Congress must support our nation’s federal wildland firefighters and ensure the federal government has a robust and resilient workforce,” the Senators wrote. “Investing in our federal wildland firefighters is a matter of national security as critical infrastructure, homes, communities, structures, and natural resources are at grave and growing risk of catastrophic wildfire.”

The Senators concluded: “Firefighters deserve fair pay, support for their mental and physical health, and time to recover from their dangerous work. In a future with increasingly catastrophic wildfires, Congress cannot wait to ensure that the federal government has the necessary workforce to protect communities. We are grateful for the bravery of our wildland firefighters. We look forward to working with you to advance permanent solutions to ensure they get the pay and benefits they deserve.”

Tester serves as the Chair of the Congressional Fire Services Caucus and has worked tirelessly to support firefighters and provide relief for communities affected by wildfires in Montana. In 2021, Senator Tester negotiated the IIJA with 5 Republicans and 4 Democrats. In his bipartisan infrastructure bill, Senator Tester championed a provision that provided $600 million for a temporary pay increase for wildland firefighters, increased the base pay for wildland firefighters by $20,000, and invested $100 million in workforce training, including for fire crews. Last May, he also led a bipartisan effort to urge the Biden Administration to fully implement increased pay for wildland firefighters.

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

And in March, Tester secured more than $9.4 million through IIJA for wildfire prevention in Missoula CountyLincoln CountyTreasure County, and southwest Montana

The Senators’ full letter can be found HERE.

You can read more about Senator Tester’s efforts to support state and federal firefighter in Montana HERE.