SACRAMENTO -- Pay hikes for federal firefighters are set to expire in October. A bipartisan infrastructure bill passed in 2021 provided a temporary pay bump for federal first responders.
That bill will expire and force federal firefighters to lose out on the salary they had been making for the past two years.
The bipartisan infrastructure law provided a bonus of $20,000 or 50% of their paycheck, whichever was less.
The US Forest Service says hiring and retaining firefighters has been a challenge for decades. They say this pay bump helped while it lasted. But as the pay bump is set to expire, experts believe firefighters will leave to find higher-paying jobs.
"They're being forced out of their job at this point. When this money goes away, they're going to lose half their paycheck," said Max Alonzo, a representative for the National Federation of Federal Employees and former wildland firefighter.
If federal firefighters walk off the job, there will be fewer firefighters on the frontlines defending communities like Foresthill in Placer County against major wildfires like the Mosquito Fire.
"We depend on them in the area we live in. It is very important we keep them and not have them leave," Foresthill resident Cynthia Kehrlein said.
The federal infrastructure bill is set to expire October 1 and a government shutdown would only add complications to a decision to continue the bonus.
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