According to CBS, firefighting is considered one of the most dangerous jobs. Being a hazardous occupation, how much do wildland firefighters make? This article will go over what the average wildland firefighter makes, common benefits, wages state by state, and recent pay increases.
How Much Do Wildland Firefighters Make?
The average salary across the US is around $40k, which 70% of wildland firefighters think their wages are enough for the cost of living in their area. Wildland firefighters typically have the opportunity for unlimited overtime. According to blogger and wildland firefighter Katrina Mohr, “Most firefighters count a good fire season as one where they are getting 700 total hours of overtime. I’ve had years where I only had 450, and years I’ve had 850.”
Originating in the 1970s, hazard pay is an additional 25% of your base hourly wage and calculated by the hours you worked that day, even if you only spent a portion of that day in hazardous conditions. Determining factors of hazard pay is if a duty is performed under circumstances in which an accident could result in serious injury or death. Hazard pay is currently used by USFS, BLM, BIA, and the National Parks Service. Municipal fire departments, Oregon Department of Forestry, CAL FIRE, and Colorado Division of Fire and Prevention no longer use hazard pay. Hazard pay can vary between fire seasons, creating an unpredictable income that people are beginning to feel is outdated. According to Riva Duncan, Grassroots Wildland Firefighters (GRWFF), it’s not enough, “[…] The pay and benefits are not commensurate with the risk, and the risk has increased fire season after fire season.”
Common Benefits for Wildland Firefighters
Benefits for Seasonal and Year-Round Wildland Firefighters: Food provided Benefits for Year-Round Wildland Firefighters: Work from home 401(k) Parental leave Health insurance Paid time off Vision insurance Dental insurance
What Wildland Firefighters Make by State
Wildland firefighters’ pay is based on the cost of living of each state.Depending on where you report, you may receive “locality pay adjustment.”
Recent Wildland Firefighter Pay Increase
Wildfire season is getting harder, longer, and more unpredictable. With that, there is a growing need for more wildland firefighters on the frontlines and a huge push for better pay.
President Joe Biden signed The Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act into law on November 15, 2021. According to whitehorse.org, this bill was made to “rebuild America’s roads, bridges, and rails, expand access to clean drinking water, ensure every American has access to high-speed internet, tackle the climate crisis, advance environmental justice, and invest in communities that have too often been left behind.” One of the many parts of the bill requires wildland firefighters to receive at least a $20,000 base salary and convert 1,000 seasonal jobs into permanent ones, which means year-round health insurance and benefits. The pay raise will impact nearly 70,000 federal employees across all agencies. With these new changes, federal agencies hope to recruit more wildland firefighters.
Is it enough?
This bill has seemed to boost morale because it offers a more liveable wage, bolsters mental health programs, and minimizes exposure to environmental hazards. But we will see it play out more this fire season.