Vice President Harris speaks about the pay of firefighters

At Del Rosa fire station in Southern California the VP was introduced by a wildland firefighter

Vice President Kamala Harris at the San Bernardino National Forest
Vice President Kamala Harris at the San Bernardino National Forest, January 21, 2022.

On Friday Vice President Kamala Harris traveled to California where she spoke about wildland fires and the fact that federal firefighters are “underpaid given the nature and value of their work.”

Her 12-minute speech was made at Del Rosa fire station on the San Bernardino National Forest as she stood in front of US Forest Service fire apparatus, Engine 330 and a Del Rosa Interagency Hotshot crew buggy.

“On behalf of the President and myself I want to thank all the men and women who serve in such difficult times but always with such grace. Thank you Sarah and thank you Chief,” the Vice President said as she began her remarks. Sarah Hudson, a firefighter, introduced the VP. More about that below.

Later the Vice President mentioned the pay of federal wildland firefighters.

“There will be $5 billion, and more actually,” she said, “for wildfire preparedness and resilience, and it will include, and this requires its own conversation, a pay raise for our federal firefighters. And I invite everyone to become familiar with the history of this issue and for how long they have been underpaid given the nature and value of their work, and so we are very, very excited to acknowledge their work not only in words but with the pay that recognizes the value of the skill and the dignity of the work that they perform…And I am very proud of the folks who in particular are on the ground doing this work every day. As I have said before I will say again, you inspire us all.”

The Vice President spoke for 12 minutes about wildland fire and reducing their impact, and never mentioned raking the forest.

She also covered the resilience of communities threatened by fire.

“We are talking with home owners and reaching out to communities,” she said, “to figure out how we can support them to create a community that is less likely to be so significantly damaged if a fire should hit.”

The Home Ignition Zone should be an extremely high priority in preventing structures from burning as a wildfire approaches.

“Surprisingly, research has shown that home ignitions during extreme wildfires result from conditions local to a home,” wrote retired US Forest Service Research scientist Jack Cohen in a 2020 article on Wildfire Today. “A home’s ignition vulnerabilities in relation to nearby burning materials within 100 feet principally determine home ignitions. This area of a home and its immediate surroundings is called the home ignition zone (HIZ). Typically, lofted burning embers initiate ignitions within the HIZ – to homes directly and nearby flammables leading to homes.”

Other speakers at the event included Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack, California Governor Gavin Newsom,  and Chief of the Forest Service Randy Moore.

Sarah Hudson, of Heaps Peak Helitack
Sarah Hudson, a US Forest Service firefighter with Heaps Peak Helitack, introduces Vice President Kamala Harris, January 21, 2022.

In addition to the dignitaries peaking at the event, Sarah Hudson, a senior firefighter on the Heaps Peak helitack crew on the San Bernardino National Forest made remarks and then introduced the Vice President. This may be the first time a wildland firefighter has performed such a feat. In her spare time Ms. Hudson serves in the California National Guard as a senior airman with the 163rd Attack Wing where she performs maintenance on ground support equipment for remotely piloted aircraft such as the MQ-9 Reaper. On several occasions a National Guard Reaper or similar National Guard drone have assisted firefighters by gathering real time imagery over ongoing wildfires in California.

The entire 35-minute event is covered in the video below.

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Author: Bill Gabbert

After working full time in wildland fire for 33 years, he continues to learn, and strives to be a Student of Fire.

20 thoughts on “Vice President Harris speaks about the pay of firefighters”

  1. Speeches like this will surely provide leverage against line officers and Regional Foresters who dare to withhold duly enacted pay raises for Fed Wildland firefighters.

    1. What makes you think Regional Foresters would attempt to prevent Congressionally-authorized pay raises from going through? Have any of them made on-the-record comments about this? It doesn’t make any sense – Congress says do it, USDA does it, RFs can’t stop that.

      1. Maybe it’s because ye have positively no confidence in Regional leadership and believe they will squander the $ by feathering their own nests.
        Maybe it’s because the text of the bill gives RF’s an off ramp via weasel words like: “Wherever certain geographic areas are deemed hard to fill locations”.
        Maybe it’s because ye have positively no confidence in Regional Leadership in any denomination.

  2. Chief Moore speaks plainly and with purpose. He looks like a Ranger. It is my hope that he can keep the ball rolling on these many issues. Secretary Vilsack and Governor Newsom are powerful allies for forest and land management and fire protection. Vice President Harris spoke well. These are good thoughts expressed by sincere people. Lets hope they keep a check list to stay on task and barring all else, keep it up on interagency cooperation, forest management, fuels reduction, community resilience, fire prevention, initial attack and a fair and sustainable pay increase for federal wildland firefighters.
    Thanks to Sara Hudson for an excellent job representing firefighters.

    John culbertson

  3. It’s nice to hear the Regional Forester say that firefighting is “one of the toughest jobs,” but I’m curious about her claims:

    1) “We’ve hired more Firefighters this year than in the past 5 years”

    2) We’ve added rest days for R&R

    3) We’ve completely revamped our mental and emotional services for firefighters.

    Maybe 2 is the “Vicki Christiansen memo” from last year?

    Maybe 3 is the new national contract for the EAP program, but that’s hardly a big shift?

    But does anyone have insight about the claims about hiring? I’m willing to bet staffing is flat or down in 2022 compared to 2021. If you have any info please respond here or email me at smokejumperbro@gmail.com.

    Genuinely curious.

    The full video is here: https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=-t-Fz2rFYTM

    And the Regional Forester starts around the 10 minute mark.

    Thanks everyone, really great day for wildland firefighters and the USGS/DOI collectively.

    1. These people always ring their own bells and, personally, I don’t always trust a persons assertion of their own wonderfulness.

    2. Re hiring–wouldn’t surprise me one bit if this was a perm/temp thing. I could believe we’ve hired and converted a whole lot of new perms.

      (Maybe also counting successful within-agency poaching as hiring. No disrespect for poaching, keeps supervisors honest, but if you have a kind of musical chairs scenario that might pump up the number of offers accepted without changing overall staffing.).

  4. Bill Gabbert: Is that you’re little slam about Kamala not mentioning “raking the forest?” Pretty cheap shot.

    [The Vice President spoke for 12 minutes about wildland fire and reducing their impact, and never mentioned raking the forest.]

    Lots of good work could come from all of this unprecedented funding. The key will be accountability for results and targeting effective dollars.

  5. Will there be more money for rakes? What about defense from Jewish Space Lasers (JSL’s) or money to change the lunar orbit?

  6. She has no clue about her own State until now. Oh and what about the Boarder issues you were assigned with that almost a year ago and nothing yet. She just laughs at everything 🤡

    1. It’s “border” issues. If you’re going to whine about something at least get what you’re whining about spelled correctly.

  7. This is so frustrating, because I went to USAJobs today and all I could find is a GS-4. Seriously, GS-4!!! So, where are all these high paying jobs??? How are you supposed to live on $32,283 in California or Colorado? I understand that some of the locations are remote, but still how do you pay for a mortgage, student loans or raise a family on $15.52/hr?

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