October 27, 2021

Neguse Chairs Hearing on His Proposal to Raise Wildland Firefighter Pay and Enact Other Reforms

View his remarks HERE. 

Washington D.C. —Today, ahead of National First Responders Day, Congressman Joe Neguse, Chair of the U.S. Subcommittee on National Parks, Forests and Public Lands held a hearing on firefighter pay and benefits. The hearing primarily considered his legislation, the Tim Hart Wildland Firefighter Classification and Pay Parity Act which would raise federal wildland firefighter pay, ensure essential benefits and address classification. Tim’s Act was introduced a week ago, earning a Committee hearing in record time.

The bill is named after Tim Hart, a smokejumper from Cody, Wyoming who lost his life on May 24, 2021 while working on the Eicks Fire in New Mexico. Tim’s widow, Michelle Hart, was in attendance at today’s hearing.

“There is broad consensus that we are pushing our firefighters to the brink,” said Chairman Neguse during his remarks. “It strikes me on an issue like this, when we have Democratic and Republican support, support from stakeholders, support from the Administration—I can’t seem to find anyone who opposes it—that we can get this done. As Rep. Cheney so eloquently put it, I could think of no better way to honor the sacrifices of our federal wildland firefighters, in particular those individuals who we’ve lost, like Tim Hart, then to get this done and to ensure that our federal firefighters actually have the resources they need to do the lifesaving work that they are doing for our communities each and every day.”

Witnesses included: Jaelith Hall-Rivera, Associate Deputy Chief of State and Private Forestry, USDA, Forest Service; Jeffery Rupert, Director, Office of Wildland Fire, U.S. Department of the Interior; Kelly Martin, President of Grassroots Wildland Firefighters; Lucas Tanner Mayfield, former wildland firefighter and Vice President of Grassroots Wildland Firefighters; and Matt Dias, President and CEO of California Forestry Association.

View the entire hearing HERE. 

Read bill text for Tim’s Act HERE. 

View a fact sheet HERE. 

Background:

In the west, wildland firefighters are on the frontlines of climate change, keeping communities safe while responding to extreme and hazardous conditions. These same firefighters are being pushed to their physical and mental limits. This makes recruitment and retention difficult and leaves us less prepared at critical times of the year. To help modernize our Federal wildland firefighting workforce, Congressman Joe Neguse and Congresswoman Liz Cheney have introduced H.R. 5631, the Tim Hart Wildland Firefighter Classification and Pay Parity Act. Named in honor of Tim Hart, a smokejumper who lost his life on a fire incident this year, Tim’s Act is a comprehensive and widely supported effort to improve pay, ensure fundamental benefits, and recognize the unique conditions, skills, and qualification inherent to wildland firefighting.