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The Mountain West News Bureau is a collaboration between Boise State Public Radio in Idaho, KUNC in Colorado, KUNM in New Mexico, KUNR in Nevada, Nevada Public Radio, the O'Connor Center for the Rocky Mountain West in Montana and Wyoming Public Media, with support from affiliate stations across the region.

Advocates: ‘Can kicked farther down the road’ by Congress on wildland fire pay

For the third time, Congress has extended temporary federal firefighter pay raises with a continuing resolution.

The extension goes until early March, and funding won’t come out of the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, but from other funds within federal fire agencies, according to the advocacy group Grassroots Wildland Firefighters.

“The can was kicked farther down the road,” said Lucas Mayfield, the group’s president. “So they extended the gangplank that federal wildland firefighters are walking on.”

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With fire season in some parts of the country just several months out, he said the uncertainty around pay and the succession of quick fixes has serious implications.

“I think it'll be a continuation of what's already a pretty depressing hiring process for folks,” he said. “There's just other places people can go to make more money, have a livable, planned income, and sacrifice less and ensure that their mental health and well-being is taken care of.”

His group is going to continue pushing for a permanent pay fix, and measures that address a number of other long-standing issues, like housing and mental health. Officials have identified low pay and other challenges as some of the key barriers to recruitment and retention in the federal fire service.

This story was produced by the Mountain West News Bureau, a collaboration between Wyoming Public Media, Nevada Public Radio, Boise State Public Radio in Idaho, KUNR in Nevada, KUNC in Colorado and KANW in New Mexico, with support from affiliate stations across the region. Funding for the Mountain West News Bureau is provided in part by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.

Hey everyone! I’m Murphy Woodhouse, Boise State Public Radio’s Mountain West News Bureau reporter.