Arrow-right Camera
The Spokesman-Review Newspaper

The Spokesman-Review Newspaper The Spokesman-Review

Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
Cloudy 62° Cloudy
News >  Pacific NW

Idaho governor OKs wildland firefighter hazard pay raises

UPDATED: Fri., March 25, 2022

FILE - After walking down a gravel road to do recon on a fire cresting into the trees, a wildland firefighter grimaces as he walks back to his crew at the Bedrock Fire north of Lenore, Idaho on Aug. 12, 2021. Idaho Gov. Brad Little has signed into law legislation giving the state's wildland firefighters hazard pay. The Republican governor on Thursday, March 24, 2022, signed the measure that provides state-employed wildland firefighters with hazard pay of up to 25% above their hourly wages.  (Pete Caster)
FILE - After walking down a gravel road to do recon on a fire cresting into the trees, a wildland firefighter grimaces as he walks back to his crew at the Bedrock Fire north of Lenore, Idaho on Aug. 12, 2021. Idaho Gov. Brad Little has signed into law legislation giving the state's wildland firefighters hazard pay. The Republican governor on Thursday, March 24, 2022, signed the measure that provides state-employed wildland firefighters with hazard pay of up to 25% above their hourly wages. (Pete Caster)
By Keith Ridler Associated Press

BOISE — Idaho Gov. Brad Little on Thursday signed into law legislation giving the state’s wildland firefighters hazard pay, a boost expected to keep more firefighters on the job.

The Republican governor signed the measure that provides Idaho Department of Lands wildland firefighters with hazard pay of up to 25% above their hourly wages. The law takes effect immediately. The bill passed the Senate 35-0 and the House 49-19.

“Fighting wildland fire is inherently dangerous work,” Little said in a statement. “Since the consequence for making a mistake can be serious injury or death, retaining experienced personnel is crucial for keeping all firefighters safe.”

Supporters of the pay raises have said they are needed to retain firefighters who leave their state jobs for better-paying firefighting jobs for agencies that offer hazard pay. Without hazard pay, 40% of Idaho wildland firefighters don’t return to work for the Lands Department after just two seasons, the supporters said.

“It’s important we lead the way in recruiting and keeping well-trained wildland firefighters,” Little said. “It protects our communities, access to our forests, and our $2.4 billion forest products industry, a major driver for Idaho’s local and state economies.”

The Idaho Department of Lands is responsible for fire protection of 9,800 square miles (25,000 square kilometers) of state, federal and private land. The state experienced one of its worst wildfire seasons in 2021 with about 225 square miles (580 square kilometers) burned, which was six times the 20-year average. Fighting the wildfires cost the state $75 million.

Little sought to boost the Idaho Department of Lands budget this year due to increasingly destructive wildfires that he has blamed in part on climate change.

“Providing hazard pay is a recognition of the threats our wildland firefighters face while working to suppress wildfires,” said Lands Department Director Dustin Miller. “It is also an important tool that helps IDL become the place where wildland firefighters want to make their permanent home, rather than a just a place to receive training before moving on.”

The hazard pay that firefighters would receive is expected to cost the state up to $390,000 a year.

New Idaho wildland firefighters make $15 an hour.

The Spokesman-Review Newspaper

Local journalism is essential.

Give directly to The Spokesman-Review's Northwest Passages community forums series -- which helps to offset the costs of several reporter and editor positions at the newspaper -- by using the easy options below. Gifts processed in this system are not tax deductible, but are predominately used to help meet the local financial requirements needed to receive national matching-grant funds.

Active Person

Subscribe now to get breaking news alerts in your email inbox

Get breaking news delivered to your inbox as it happens.