President’s 2025 Budget Proposes Significant Investments to Address the Nation’s Wildfire Crisis and Advance Wildland Fire Workforce Reform

The President’s budget includes $1.6 billion for the Interior Department to reduce wildfire risk, build resilient landscapes, and better support the wildland fire workforce

Last edited 03/12/2024

Monday, March 11, 2024

WASHINGTON — The Biden-Harris administration today submitted to Congress the President’s budget for fiscal year 2025, which includes $1.6 billion for the Department of the Interior’s contributions to wildland fire management. These investments will help address the effects of climate change and the impacts of wildfires on public health, communities, and natural and cultural resources while continuing to support comprehensive reforms for the wildland fire management workforce.

“As climate change, drought, and the spread of invasive species propel longer, more intense fire years, the demands on our wildland fire personnel continue to increase,” said Jeff Rupert, Director of Interior’s Office of Wildland Fire. “The President’s 2025 budget proposal furthers our ongoing efforts to better support those who work in these arduous, critically important jobs through a permanent pay increase and other workforce reforms.”

Last year, more than 56,580 wildfires burned over 2.6 million acres nationwide, according to the National Interagency Coordination Center. With the number of wildfires below the 10-year average, Interior was able to support our Canadian partners as they experienced their worst wildfire year on record. Nevertheless, significant wildfire activity still occurred in most geographic areas of the U.S. over an extended portion of the year.  Intense wildfires in recent weeks in Texas and Oklahoma are having profound impacts on our natural landscapes, communities, and public health and are an early indicator of a potentially long and challenging wildfire season.

Increases to transform the wildland fire workforce:

Increase firefighter pay. A permanent and comprehensive pay increase is the cornerstone of the wildland fire workforce reforms in the 2025 budget request. The budget includes an increase of $75.0 million for Interior to permanently increase pay for federal and Tribal wildland firefighters. This permanent pay increase will build on pay supplements the administration provided in 2021, as well as the temporary pay supplements initiated under President Biden’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Law and extended during 2024. As this reform will require congressional authorization, the administration maintains support for the legislative proposal transmitted to Congress in March 2023 that would establish a special base rate salary table for federal wildland firefighters to permanently increase their base pay; create a new premium pay category that provides additional compensation for all hours federal wildland fire responders are mobilized on an incident; establish a premium pay cap with secretarial waiver authority; and provide permanent authorization to grant paid rest and recuperation leave to employees returning from certain multi-day incidents related to wildland fires.

Enhance support for firefighter health and wellbeing. The budget includes an increase of $20.0 million, split evenly between the Interior Department and the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Forest Service, to enhance support for wildland firefighter physical and mental health and wellbeing. The funding will support the development of a comprehensive joint program to increase the understanding of both the short- and long-term effects of working in wildland fire on mental and physical health and enable the agencies to better address these health risks.

Expand firefighting capacity. The budget proposes an increase of $39.8 million to expand Interior’s wildland firefighting capacity. This will help to ensure that the Department can effectively meet the growing demands of wildland fire year-round while improving the work-life balance of our wildland fire personnel. This increase will support more than 60 additional federal and Tribal wildland fire positions. In addition, the Department is preparing for an all-hands approach during peak wildfire activity by encouraging employees in other programs to complete training and qualifications in anticipation of supporting the nation’s wildland fire response efforts through collateral duty assignments.

Provide increased housing for wildland fire personnel. The budget includes a $5.0 million increase for facilities construction, enabling Interior to invest $10 million to repair, renovate, and construct housing for wildland firefighters as they continue to encounter limited or unaffordable housing options in some locations.

Other increases for wildland fire management:

Beyond the workforce reforms, the President’s budget request provides an additional $12.5 million in program increases for wildfire preparedness, including $2.5 million to establish a joint office for wildfire science and technology with USDA, as well as $5.0 million for aviation contracts and $5.0 million for enhancing the Department’s uncrewed aerial systems program. Funding in the 2025 budget for fuels management, in conjunction with Bipartisan Infrastructure Law funding, will support the treatment of over 1.8 million acres to reduce wildfire risk. This work will be completed in collaboration with numerous stakeholders and partners to expand its impact across jurisdictional boundaries.

The funding proposed in the President’s 2025 budget would enable Interior to continue the accelerated pace and scale of its wildland fire management activities and support a modern wildland fire workforce, building upon the historic initiatives and investments from the President’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Law to strengthen the response to the nation’s wildfire crisis.

For more information on the President’s 2025 budget proposals for Interior, visit the Department’s budget webpage.


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