Jim Woodward sponsors successful bill to provide firefighter hazard pay

Idaho Department of Lands
News Release
March 24, 2022

Boise, ID – Governor Brad Little signed House Bill 588 today, authorizing wildland firefighters to receive hazard pay while working in dangerous conditions. This legislation underpins a movement to modernize the Department of Lands’ (IDL) wildfire management program.

The bill, which enjoyed broad support among Idaho’s policy makers, enables Idaho’s wildland firefighters to receive competitive compensation on par with their federal peers and other western states when working on an uncontrolled fire or at an active fire helibase. Sen. Jim Woodward and Rep. Sage Dixon carried the bill through their respective chambers in the legislature.

“It’s important we lead the way in recruiting and keeping well-trained wildland firefighters,” Governor 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.”

Without the hazard pay, after just two seasons 40% of IDL wildland firefighters do not return to work for the agency. This high turnover rate, given training requirements, is costly and potentially dangerous. Individuals seeking careers in fire often use IDL to obtain certifications and experience, then move on to obtain permanent or higher paying jobs elsewhere.

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

In a recent survey 60% of IDL’s wildland firefighters who indicated they would not return to work for the agency in the next season stated if hazard pay was provided, they would stay on with IDL.

“Governor Little is leading Idaho to a new era of wildfire management,” said IDL Director Dustin Miller. “This bill, coupled with IDL’s budget request, increases our firefighters’ salary, fills a crucial part in modernizing fire program, and strengthens our ability to suppress wildfires quickly and safely.”

“Enacting hazard pay has been a team effort, led by Governor Little with strong support from the Land Board, Rep. Dixon, Sen. Woodward, industry stakeholders and many other legislators,” Miller added. “Providing hazard pay is a recognition of the threats our wildland firefighters face while working to suppress wildfires. 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.”

Those seeking employment as seasonal wildland firefighters are encouraged to apply by visiting www.idl.idaho.gov. Starting immediately, Idaho’s wildland firefighters are now eligible to receive hazard pay. New firefighters earn a starting wage of $15 per hour and are eligible for overtime.

At the bill signing, pictured left to right: Rep. Sage Dixon, Sen. Jim Woodward, Attorney General Lawrence Wasden, Governor Brad Little, Secretary of State Lawerence Denney, State Controller Brandon Woolf, Superintendent of Public Instruction Sherri Ybarra, and Department of Lands Director Dustin Miller.

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