Daines Introduces Bipartisan Legislation to Raise Overtime Pay Cap for Wildland Firefighters

U.S. SENATE – U.S. Senator Steve Daines helped introduce bipartisan legislation to permanently raise the caps on overtime premium pay for federal wildland firefighters. The “Wildland Firefighter Fair Pay Act” would increase these overtime pay caps to appropriately compensate Forest Service and Department of the Interior wildland firefighters for the work they do.

Despite risking their lives and traveling cross-country for months at a time to protect American communities and forests from catastrophic wildfires, many of the more than 11,000 wildland firefighters live paycheck to paycheck. This has contributed to a firefighter workforce shortage — already, 20 percent of Forest Service permanent firefighter positions are vacant, and the federal government often cannot compete with salaries offered by state and local firefighting agencies.

“Montana wildland firefighters put their lives on the line year after year to protect not only our forests, but our communities,” Daines said. “It’s past time for us to show them recognition by ensuring their dedication is matched with fair pay for the long overtime hours they work.”

This legislation complements existing federal efforts like Daines’ “Wildland Firefighter Paycheck Protection Act,” which would permanently protect the pay increase for wildland firefighters. Specifically, the “Wildland Firefighter Fair Pay Act” would:

  1. Provide a permanent statutory fix for wildland firefighter pay caps, increasing the total possible take home paychecks from GS 15 – Step 10 to Senior Executive Service II.
  2. Expand eligible employees to include National Weather Service meteorologists that deploy with firefighters for the hours they work on wildfires.
  3. Require a joint report from the Department of Agriculture, Department of the Interior, and the National Weather Service on the necessary staffing levels of wildland firefights and incident meteorologists. 

Statements of Support:

“Year after year, our wildland firefighters demonstrate unparalleled courage and resilience, traveling extensively and confronting immense dangers to safeguard American communities, forests, and natural landscapes from the devastating impacts of wildfires. Despite their monumental service, it is disheartening to acknowledge that many of these 11,000+ dedicated professionals are constrained to live paycheck to paycheck due to host of factors, amongst them the prevailing pay caps. The challenge of overtime work without proportionate compensation, combined with the growing vacancies in permanent firefighter positions, underscores the dire need for addressing this discrepancy. The ‘Wildland Firefighter Fair Pay Act’ presents a timely and significant solution to this systemic inequity. By proposing to elevate the overtime pay caps and augmenting the potential maximum earnings for our firefighters, the legislation rightfully recognizes and compensates them for their arduous and indispensable service. – Luke Mayfield, President, Grassroots Wildland Firefighters.

The National Federation of Federal Employees, representing more than 10,000 federal wildland firefighters, is pleased to endorse the Wildland Firefighter Fair Pay Act.  Each year during fire season and beyond, the demand for wildland firefighters requires heavy overtime hours.  Because overtime is so high, firefighters exceed arbitrary pay caps, and many hours of work go unpaid.  This means that on top of grueling hours and exertion, firefighters are forced to work for free. This fix is long overdue and will help with recruitment and retention of a workforce that is already 20 percent understaffed.  We thank Senator Alex Padilla for his leadership, and we support this Act in memory of the late Senator Dianne Feinstein who was a staunch supporter of wildland firefighters and their families – Randy Erwin, National President, NFFE.

Full text of the bill is available here

To see more of Daines’ extensive work fighting for wildland firefighters and protecting our forests, click here.