The state of Montana is increasing its base pay for seasonal firefighters to a minimum of $15.50 per hour to help recruit and retain highly qualified personnel, Gov. Greg Gianforte and the state Department of Natural Resources and Conservation said Monday.
"Montana's wildland firefighters are some of the most important and necessary personnel serving our state, especially with recent, more severe fire seasons," Gianforte said in a statement. "This well-deserved pay increase will help ensure our wildland firefighters remain the most skilled and mission capable firefighting workforce in the region."
Seasonal firefighters in Montana will see a pay increase of $1.70 per hour, which brings the minimum base pay to $15.50. The job can pay up to $16.19 per hour, according to state job listings. Montana is advertising for 41 seasonal firefighters, along with engine bosses, dispatchers, fuel truck drivers and helicopter crew members.
The increased wage makes the state of Montana competitive with other regional fire protection agencies, Gianforte said. Last summer, the federal government increased its firefighter pay to at least $15 an hour.
The $1.2 trillion infrastructure bill passed by Congress and signed into law in November by President Joe Biden is also poised to increase firefighter pay. The bill contains $600 million for pay raises and job changes for wildland firefighters, including creating year-round positions for at least 1,000 now-seasonal workers. Pay rates are set to increase by either $20,000 or 50%, depending on position and location.
As states in the West continue to endure longer fire seasons and more extreme fire behavior, having a modernized, fully staffed firefighting workforce remains a top priority, Gianforte and DNRC Director Amanda Kaster said.
Scientists say climate change has made the West much warmer and drier in the past 30 years and will continue to make weather more extreme and wildfires more frequent and destructive.
— Montana State News Bureau deputy Tom Kuglin contributed to this story.
The Montana State News Bureau contributed to this story.