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Firefighters in Montana set to receive pay increase, state announces

by Bill Gabbert, Wildfire Today |

Wildland firefighters working for the State of Montana have received a pay increase. The state announced this week that seasonal firefighters in Montana will get an additional $1.70 per hour, bringing the minimum base pay to $15.50 per hour.

“Montana’s wildland firefighters are some of the most important and necessary personnel serving our state, especially with recent, more severe fire seasons,” Gov. Greg Gianforte said. “This well-deserved pay increase will help ensure our wildland firefighters remain the most skilled and mission capable firefighting workforce in the region.”

Department of Natural Resources and Conservation Director Amanda Kaster said, “It is more important than ever that we modernize our firefighting workforce to effectively address the challenges we face during these unprecedented fire seasons.”

Montana’s job listing website today shows seasonal firefighters at Anaconda, Mont., will be paid $15.50 to $16.19 an hour, while engine bosses at the same location will earn $16.85 to $18.47 an hour. Both job announcements have a disclaimer that the actual pay may be less than advertised: “This agency may use a training assignment. Employees in training assignments may be paid below the base pay established by the agency pay rules.”

It may not be a coincidence that this pay raise came after Congress passed the bipartisan infrastructure legislation in November authorizing pay increases for federal wildland firefighters of $20,000 a year, or an amount equal to 50 percent of the base salary — the lesser of the two.

In a quote often attributed to President John F. Kennedy, “A rising tide lifts all boats.” However, it can take some time for the ripples to reach every vessel and the height reached may not be equal – for example, Cal Fire vs. federal firefighters.

These pay increases, while long overdue, are deserved and welcomed by firefighters who work in one of the toughest and dangerous professions.

>> Compensation of federal firefighters

The next step to benefit federal firefighters is for Congress to pass H.R. 4274 Wildland Firefighter Fair Pay Act, and H.R. 5631 Tim Hart Wildland Firefighter Classification and Pay Parity Act. Or, some combination of the two. Brief descriptions of the bills are in the article we published October 26. The bills have been introduced, referred to five committees, and one hearing was held by the House Natural Resources Subcommittee on National Parks, Forests, and Public Lands.