Sinema & Bipartisan Colleagues to Schumer & McConnell: Pass Our Wildland Firefighter Paycheck Protection Act to Keep Our Communities Safe

Sep 18, 2023

Senator’s Wildland Firefighter Paycheck Protection Act prevents unfair pay cuts for federal wildland firefighters beginning October 1

WASHINGTON – Arizona senior Senator Kyrsten Sinema led a bipartisan group of her colleagues in urging Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) to avoid mass resignations within the wildland firefighter ranks by ensuring the prompt passage of her bipartisan Wildland Firefighter Paycheck Protection Act. Republican Senators John Barrasso (Wyo.), Steve Daines (Mont.), Cynthia Lummis (Wyo.), and Democratic Senators Joe Manchin (W.Va.), Alex Padilla (Calif.), Jon Tester (Mont.), and Martin Heinrich (N.M.) joined Sinema in signing the letter.

The bipartisan, Sinema-led Wildland Firefighter Paycheck Protection Act protects the pay raise secured for wildland firefighters in Sinema’s bipartisan infrastructure law. If the legislation does not pass, the pay raise will expire – risking a mass resignation that will leave the workforce unprepared to keep communities safe.

“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,” wrote the senators.

Due to funding limitations, pay is set to revert to previous levels beginning on October 1, 2023. Given the lower pay and grueling nature of the work, there is great concern about the ability to meet the staffing and labor levels required to adequately respond to wildfires across the country. Sinema’s legislation would prevent these cuts from taking place.

The letter outlines how a recent report conducted by GAO found that the most commonly cited barrier to wildland firefighter recruitment and retention was low pay. Officials and stakeholders unanimously stated that the pay is too low and noted that the pay does not reflect the risk or physical demands of the work.

Sinema’s Wildland Firefighter Paycheck Protection Act supports federal wildland firefighters by maintaining the pay raise Sinema secured in her bipartisan infrastructure law. Sinema’s legislation helps ensure the federal government can recruit and retain a sufficient wildland firefighting workforce, and that these brave men and women feel supported as they protect and keep Arizonans safe from life-threatening wildfires.

Sinema’s bipartisan infrastructure law also made historic investments in wildfire mitigation and recovery – including directing the federal government to create a new occupational series for wildland firefighters. 

Click HERE to read the senators’ letter.