Gallego presses Defense Department ahead of 'firefighter fiscal cliff'
Arizona Congressman Ruben Gallego is asking the U.S. Department of Defense how it might be planning to step in to assist states impacted by possible wildland firefighter pay cuts.
In a letter Friday to Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, Gallego said he believed the department has a role to play in offering equipment and other support if requested.
Gallego also asked for more information about how the DOD is preparing for what advocates call the “firefighter fiscal cliff” and what the department’s contributions have been to firefighting since its authority was expanded under last year’s defense budget.
A temporary raise for all of the nation’s 19,000 federal wildland firefighters will expire tomorrow without congressional action, forcing across-the-board pay cuts of $20,000 or 50%.
"Such a reduction in the laborforce would come at a devastating time for Arizona ... I am determined to provide Arizona, and other wildfire-susceptible states, with the resources they need to combat these disasters," wrote Gallego.
Forest Service officials estimate between a third and half of the workforce could resign if the cuts take effect.
State fire officials say there had been 1,400 wildfires in Arizona as August, which is 200 more than 2022.