Bill goes to Governor for Idaho state firefighters to earn hazard pay

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Fire on the Sawtooth National Forest in Idaho. Photo by Harrison Raine.

A bill sitting on the Governor’s desk would pay state firefighters in Idaho hazard pay when they are battling wildfires. It would add an additional 25 percent of their hourly wage to their earnings when they are assigned to a fire.

The starting pay for fire personnel with the Idaho Department of Lands (IDL) is $12.55 an hour, lower than what they could receive working at some fast food restaurants.

The legislation passed the House with a vote of 49 to 19, but was went through the senate 35-0.

From KREM2:

“What this does is it recognizes that wildland firefighting is a very dangerous profession,” said the Fire Management Chief for the IDL in Coeur d’Alene, Josh Harvey. “There’s all sorts of things in that wildland fire environment that can kill an individual or seriously injure them.” Harvey, a born and raised Idahoan, has been a wildland firefighter since graduating high school. He has spent much time working shoulder to shoulder with interagency partners. He’s also been in charge of other federal or state firefighters who, while doing the same job, were compensated at a higher rate because they received hazard pay. For the agency, Harvey said offering hazard pay is critical to retain some of the employees who get lured away by other agencies offering a higher rate of pay.

The firefighters have a work schedule of 40 hours per week, but are expected to work as long as necessary while at a fire, and can travel to other states on two-week assignments.

In a recent survey, 60% of IDL’s wildland firefighters who indicated they would not return to work for the agency next season said that if hazard pay was provided, they would stay on with IDL.

The bill specifies that firefighters would only be eligible for hazard pay for the time they are actually on that incident, which may be only an hour or two for a small fire. This differs from the federal policy, where personnel are paid hazard pay for the entire shift.

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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.

11 thoughts on “Bill goes to Governor for Idaho state firefighters to earn hazard pay”

  1. With that pay increase, their wages come to $15.68. So, now they make about what McDonalds is paying for someone to shove a hamburger out the door. This is a very sad joke to those who put their lives on the line!!!

  2. Hazard pay is a (small) step in the right direction for IDL but, unless their “no paid base eights” R&R policy has changed as well, they’ll continue to have major morale/retention/recruitment problems. When I was associated with the program, if you timed out at 14+ day assignment and your two mandatory R&R days didn’t fall on your weekend, you were effectively laid off for two days and, most likely, lost 16 hours of overtime because overtime is calculated as time worked over 40 hours in the week, not over eight in a day. Benefited employees could use annual leave to cover the base eights and not lose the overtime. At $12.55/hr, 16 hours of overtime is $301. That could be a good chunk of a young person’s rent for the month. If the subject was brought up, leadership would say some version of “we’re not going to pay you to stay home” then wonder why they hemorrhage employees.

  3. Fully concur. A season and a half, I bailed to the feds. It definitely makes a huge difference. It’s sad how cheap the state is when it comes to the people that protect their endowment lands. Piss poor.

  4. You have got to be kidding! They put their lives on the line every time they go out there! They deserve every penny and then some! They protect people and property that they don’t nor will ever know. It’s is a job that they decided to do to,to protect our state! The least we can do is to pay them for a job well done!! If we can’t do that, we might as well burn up, and add to the to climate change! Would you as a Big person, state representative or senator jump out of bed in the middle of the night to go fight a fire for McDonald’s wages? So , why should they? Think about it ! Especially if you you live in the Boise foothills nowadays. You are just one spark away from homeless m

  5. First please stop using Mc Donalds as a comparison, that is a crock of dung, Average McDonald’s Salary 11.54 hourly $24,000 yearly Entry level Salary $17,000 yearly, people say it enough and it becomes believable, sure there are a few that pay 15$ it’s the exception…..Just stop….People at Mc D’s get paid dung, and most of them work very hard, in this new era of folks dropping out of the workforce it’s still kinda nice to know you can get a cheap burger, so just stop it’s disrespectful to boot……

    It’s great to see this forum talk about state agencies, outside of Calif I can not think of another that pays better than the feds, I used to tell my folks to never discuss wages with our state counterparts, never bring it up, there is such a huge gap between us, here you see folks with degrees from some tech school making way less that our temp FF’s, I would sure like to see some of them jump ship and join the feds, just not enough fed jobs in some states, oh and yes they are a very dedicated bunch, they take care of things very well, you never here them complain, they are very happy to have their jobs….They resent being told there pay sucks….they know……..They are great partners to be sure, always willing to assist……And they put out a ton of fire, they get after it….building boxes is not there thing….they truly work for the tax payer….we could take a page from their book…..

    I do not understand why state folks are not banging on the door to get w/ the feds, much better all the way around, and now that the feds are going to be making big money maybe they will come…..

    I hope one day all Mc D folks make 15$……Peace……

  6. I started out working for the State of Idaho in 1965. $200/ month plus free room and board. No overtime and six day work week. This up is progress.

  7. Friendly inflation calculation:

    $200 in 1965 would be equal to about $1,800 in purchasing power in 2021. Closer to $2000 now, with recent high inflation rates.

    Here’s the rub:

    At 12.55 an hour, for 160 hours of work (2 pay periods of base pay) these guys would gross $2,008 a month.

    Which is *(drumroll please)* THE SAME AS YOU MADE IN 1965!!

  8. Thanks for this.

    The topic of inflation was cut from the economics classes for these people. Thanks for teaching them. Hopefully they are listening and doing their own calculations to see the facts – not the lies – they will find out a big surprise – right between the eyes. America is the home of the hypocrite.

  9. In Moab, Utah , McDonald’s pays 19$ / hr

    No experience
    Medical / Dental Benefits
    Full time 40 hrs / week

    Yes you have to work inside mostly.

    Who knows where that zippia site gathers data from.

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