Congress averts firefighter pay cliff and national shutdown

The U.S. House of Representatives and Senate both passed a bill late Saturday, September 30 to keep federal agencies fully funded, effectively averting a government shutdown. A provision in the bill also temporarily keeps wildland firefighter pay at its current rate.

The passed bill, H.R. 5860, makes specific mention of averting the looming mass exodus of wildland firefighters that would have resulted from the expiration of a 2021 pay increase.

“Amounts made available by section 101 for Department of the Interior — Department-Wide Programs — Wildland Fire Management and Department of Agriculture — Forest Service — Wildland Fire Management shall be available for the federal wildland firefighter base salary increase provided under section 40803(d)(4)(B) of Public Law 117–58 and may be apportioned up to the rate for operations necessary to continue to fund such base salary increase,” the bill’s text reads.

Wildland firefighters aren’t out of the woods yet. While the bill is set to be signed by President Biden before the October 1 deadline, it funds the government for only 45 days as legislators continue debating what to do with federal finances. The pay cliff’s new deadline is November 17.