Colorados federal wildland firefighters getting raises to $15 per hour
Federal firefighters in Colorado and the rest of the country will see more money on their next paycheck after two federal agencies bumped their salary to $15 per hour.
The Department of the Interior and U.S. Forest Service announced Tuesday that they’ve implemented the minimum wage increase at the request of President Joe Biden.
About 11,300 USFS firefighters and 3,500 Interior firefighters — 75% of all federal firefighters — were making less than $15 per hour before this week. The Interior Department didn’t immediately respond to a request regarding what the pay rate has been.
Next week’s paychecks will reflect the raise, which will be backdated to June 30, so firefighters will be compensated if they made less than $15 per hour in July and August. There will also be one-time bonuses for most firefighters.
“It’s becoming increasingly difficult (for federal agencies) to compete with the state agencies in Colorado to retain and recruit wildland firefighters” due to the low federal pay, said Jonathon Golden, legislative director for Grassroots Wildland Firefighters, a nonprofit advocacy group.
“We’re at a place where we’re just welcome to even get an additional cent because in the aggregate everything counts,” he said. “But is $15 per hour going to keep people in place when state agencies in Colorado or California, Oregon and Washington have made investments in their workforce? Probably not.”
Golden, who worked for 11 years as a federal firefighter, said firefighters can double or triple their salaries by working for state agencies in the West rather than the federal government. The benefits are much better at state agencies as well.
“What we’re seeing now is the very first step to begin to address that,” he said.
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