Tester Turns Up Heat for Wildland Firefighter Pay Increase

Senator joins bipartisan group urging Senate leadership to pass his Wildland Firefighter Paycheck Protection Act

With the deadline to permanently increase pay for wildland firefighters rapidly approaching, U.S. Senator Jon Tester today joined a bipartisan group of his colleagues in calling on Senate leadership to take the necessary steps to pass his bipartisan Wildland Firefighter Paycheck Protection Act before the September 30th pay cliff. 

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 at the end of the month without Tester’s legislation.

“We are writing to urge you to take all necessary steps to avoid mass resignations within the wildland firefighter ranks by ensuring the prompt passage of S. 2272, the Wildland Firefighter Paycheck Protection Act,” wrote the bipartisan group of Senators in a letter to Majority Leader Schumer and Minority Leader McConnell. “Due to the dangers that wildfires pose to our forests and communities, a lack of action to ensure the fair treatment of our Federal wildland firefighting workforce would jeopardize national security. Therefore, we request that you take all possible actions to ensure this critical legislation passes into law before the end of the fiscal year.”

Senator Tester introduced the Wildland Firefighter Paycheck Protection Act in July. 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 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 Tester’s full bipartisan letter to Senate leadership HERE.