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Stopgap pay measure, congressional battling leave wildland firefighters disappointed

A wildland firefighter keeps their eyes on the flames
A wildland firefighter keeps their eyes on the flames

Another last-minute measure from Congress staved off a feared drop in wildland firefighter pay last week. But the body’s dysfunction and seeming inability to pass a permanent solution is disheartening to firefighters and their advocates.

For the last two years, federal wildland firefighters have enjoyed substantial raises, which were funded by the 2021 Bipartisan Infrastructure Law and as high as $20,000 annually.

The most recent continuing resolution extended those temporary raises, but only untilearly next year. A similar stopgap measure was passed in late September with just hours to spare.

Riva Duncan, vice president of Grassroots Wildland Firefighters, is glad legislators at least included the workers her group advocates for, but said it’s far from enough.

“It puts hiring managers in a really tough spot,” she said, adding that it also leaves firefighters thinking, “Gosh, do I want to walk into this with so much uncertainty?”

She said her group will continue to push for a permanent pay solution, and then a broader package of wildland fire reforms.

But Duncan said the last several months of highly publicized congressional dysfunction – including a weeks-long stretch without a House speaker – have been “extremely disheartening.”

“It just adds more angst onto folks who are really dealing with a lot of issues. And really, the morale is already pretty low,” she said. “We're really just afraid that they're not going to be able to work together to pass meaningful legislation.”

This story was produced by the Mountain West News Bureau, a collaboration between Wyoming Public Media, Nevada Public Radio, Boise State Public Radio in Idaho, KUNR in Nevada, KUNC in Colorado and KANW in New Mexico, with support from affiliate stations across the region. Funding for the Mountain West News Bureau is provided in part by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.

Hey everyone! I’m Murphy Woodhouse, Boise State Public Radio’s Mountain West News Bureau reporter.
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