Wildfire incidents grew by at least 100 incidents each year since 2015, highlighting the gravity of the climate crisis.
President Joe Biden is raising the wages of federal firefighters to a minimum of $15 an hour as America prepares for the wildfire season. The White House also said it's a step towards recognizing the growing dangers of wildfires and heatwaves exacerbated by climate change and the role firefighters play in keeping the community safe. The White House announced the wage of federal firefighters a week after the President met with FEMA chief, reported NBC News. Joe Biden was shocked that federal firefighters only make $13 per hour. “That's a ridiculously low salary to pay federal firefighters,” said Biden after the meeting, before adding, “That's going to end in my administration.”
Climate scientists have already warned that climate changes are going to result in more frequent extreme weather events such as wildfires and heatwaves. The White House said it will provide "bonuses" to increase firefighters' pay to $15 per hour, before adding that it would work with Congress to permanently increase their wages. A Biden administration official said it wanted to ensure firefighters are “fairly paid for the grueling and risky work that they're willing to take on.” The details of the "bonuses" haven't been shared with the media as of now, with regards to how it's going to fund the wage increases via bonuses.
The June heatwave has been primarily responsible for triggering wildfires across California, Oregon, Arizona, and Colorado. The record-breaking heatwave combined with wildfires has caused temperatures to rise well above 110 degrees in some places. Portland, Oregon, set an all-time record-high temperature three days in a row, topping out at 116 degrees on Monday while Seattle hit 108 degrees, setting an all-time record, reported CNN. Wildfire incidents grew by at least 100 incidents each year since 2015, highlighting the gravity of the climate crisis.
The White House is also hoping that the rise in pay will also help improve the recruitment of firefighters and help retain firefighters. White House is also planning to hire more firefighters and transition more existing firefighters from seasonal to permanent roles, addressing the reality that wildfires are now happening throughout the year as opposed to just occurring during summer. A Biden administration official also said that permanent firefighters will be eligible for retention bonuses of up to 10%.
The federal government has also encouraged states in the Western United States to apply for “resilience grants” to fund projects for emergency preparedness and response, said the official, before confirming that one state had already applied for a pre-disaster mitigation grant that will be announced soon. The Biden administration also has plans to improve early detection efforts through satellite monitoring and create more surge capacity to respond to fires through more equipment and aviation. "We'll also be leveraging the latest science and new and emerging technologies including satellites to improve early detection efforts so we know in real time when wildfires begin," said the official. "We'll use new tools to improve our wildfire mitigation activities, enhance our wildfire response capabilities, and protect our firefighters and residents from smoke, dangerous air, and fire risks."
Biden plans to meet with governors, Cabinet members, and business leaders to discuss the wildfire season how America can combat it. White House spokesperson Jen Psaki confirmed that Biden had met with California Governor Gavin Newsom, Oregon Governor Kate Brown, and Utah Governor Spencer Cox to discuss measures to control wildfires. "The President will ask participants what additional resources they need and what actions can be taken immediately to protect communities, improve emergency preparedness and address the growing wildfire threat facing our community," said a Biden administration official.