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With firefighter pay issue delayed to November, advocates aim for permanent solution

  A firefighter keeps an eye on a May prescribed fire in Colorado
A firefighter keeps an eye on a May prescribed fire in Colorado

The continuing resolutionthat averted a government shutdown also kept in place temporary raises for federal wildland firefighters – for now.

Last weekend’s drama didn’t resolve the pay cliff, which could bring pay cuts as large as $20,000 for thousands of firefighters. It simply pushed it to mid-November.

Advocacy groups are going to use the breathing room to push for a permanent fix, like the Wildland Firefighter Paycheck Protection Act.

“It's introduced in both the House and the Senate, has broad bipartisan support, and in the short order of things, that's the first piece of legislation that [we] realistically feels should be passed,” said Jonathon Golden, who does government affairs work with Grassroots Wildland Firefighters.

But Golden is “slightly pessimistic” about the bill’s prospects, in part because House Speaker Kevin McCarthy was ousted in a rebellion led by some fellow Republicans. Golden said that as a Californian, McCarthy had a closer relationship with wildfire than some possible replacements.

Golden, a former firefighter, says his wildland colleagues are accustomed to tough conditions.

“And this is what Congress is presenting us with right now, a very hard, arduous and unfavorable condition,” he said. “But we're not deterred. We're not dissuaded.”

This story was produced by the Mountain West News Bureau, a collaboration between Wyoming Public Media, Nevada Public Radio, Boise State Public Radio in Idaho, KUNR in Nevada, KUNC in Colorado and KANW in New Mexico, with support from affiliate stations across the region. Funding for the Mountain West News Bureau is provided in part by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.

Copyright 2023 Boise State Public Radio News. To see more, visit Boise State Public Radio News.

Murphy Woodhouse