Biden Vows Raise to $15 Minimum Wage for Federal Firefighters Ahead of 'Above Normal' Wildfire Season
"These courageous women and men take an incredible risk of running toward the fire, and they deserve to be paid and paid good wages," President Biden said Wednesday
The White House is raising the minimum wage for federal firefighters across the country, as wildfires continue to ravage portions of the U.S.
"These courageous women and men take an incredible risk of running toward the fire, and they deserve to be paid and paid good wages," Biden, 78, said on Wednesday. "You know that old expression 'God made man that he made a few firefighters.' Well, it's true."
The announcement comes ahead of what is expected to be a difficult wildfire season and a reported shortage of firefighters in some Western states like California.
The White House said scientists with the National Interagency Fire Center forecast predict an "above normal fire potential for much of the West," raising the stakes after fires have repeatedly ravaged California, Oregon and Washington in recent years.
Last year's wildfires were the worst and largest ever recorded, according to The Los Angeles Times, which reported that wildfires have continued getting worse over the past decade, exacerbated by climate change.
"Climate change is driving the devastating intersection of extreme heat, drought, and wildland fire danger across the United States," the White House said Wednesday morning, announcing that Biden had met last week with FEMA Administrator Deanne Criswell and a White House Homeland preparedness team to discuss preventative measures for this year's expected fires.
On Wednesday, Biden also met with several governors of Western states, including governors from California, Oregon, Washington, Wyoming, Utah, New Mexico, Colorado and Nevada.
The president and the governors, alongside other Cabinet officials, discussed plans to prevent wildfires and respond to the natural disasters.
"We're seeing wildfires of greater intensity that move with more speed and last well beyond traditional months and fire season," Biden said at the meeting, according to NBC News. "And that's a problem for all of us."
Among the efforts the Biden administration laid out on Wednesday, the White House said it plans to recruit more firefighters ahead of time, bolster their minimum pay, and train military members to help communities respond to natural disasters, among other efforts.
"Firefighters must be fairly paid for the grueling work they are willing to take on," the White House said. "From supporting COVID-19 efforts to fighting wildfires, our federal wildland firefighters have been on nearly nonstop deployments since January 2020."
"We are announcing that we are fulfilling the President's commitment that firefighters will not make less than $15 an hour this year," the White House said. "In addition, permanent firefighters working on the front lines paid at up to a GS-9 [federal government payscale] level will receive up to a 10 percent retention incentive and temporary workers who commit to continue this season would receive a $1000 Spot/Star Award this year."
The White House went on: "These are short-term solutions to support our Federal wildland firefighters, especially due to the multiple impacts of COVID and climate change this year. The Administration will work with Congress on longer-term much needed compensation, benefit, and work-life balance reforms for Federal wildland firefighters."