With wildfires becoming more of a prevalent problem across the US, federal workers on the frontlines battling flames get designation as ‘firefighters’
Formally known as the federal wildland crew, a category of federal employees have recently received the designation of firefighter. This not only comes as a matter of pride, but for those in these positions, it comes with a pay raise, adjusted retirement benefits, and an additional cash bonus on top of that. A bipartisan infrastructure bill, signed by Biden in November, is responsible as the catalyst for these structural changes.
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The infrastructure bill instilled the $15 minimum wage, giving many of these wildland crew positions a pay bump. Then, this June, the President signed an executive order that gave these wildland employees an additional pay raise equal to 50% of their existing pay or $20,000 – whichever is less. A recent memo was also sent out agencies to let them know there was a 12-month deadline to make the designation changes for appropriate personnel. By becoming known as “firefighters,” federal wildlands employees will receive the retirement benefits associated with special provisions in place for not just firemen, but law enforcement officers and air-traffic controllers as well.
Colloquially, these feds are know as “Hot Shots” or “Smokejumpers.” Working close to approaching wildfires, these crewmembers dig trenches in a attempt to break the fire, along with managing unbroken terrain of American forestland in other ways. They often serve for 16-hour workdays in intense heat, separated from their families, to trek into the wilderness, sometimes with up to 120 pounds of equipment carried on their back, helping manage the wildfires that are consuming woodlands across the country. In 2021 alone, 58,733 individual fires engulfed over 7 million acres of land.
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