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Hazard pay helps recruit wildland firefighters in Idaho

Lauren Paterson/Northwest Public Broadcasting
Kane Steinbruecker stands near ruins of a home lost to wildfire two summers ago near Orofino, Idaho.

Last month, the Idaho legislature increased the base pay for wildland firefighters to $15 an hour. Firefighters will now also get hazard pay when working on an uncontrolled fire.

Kane Steinbruecker is the chief fire warden for the Clearwater Potlatch Timber Protection Association, one of Idaho’s two remaining private, nonprofit timber
protective associations.

“Obviously, hazard pay is a big tool for us. Compensation has always been one of the concerns that our firefighters have,” he says.

“And so the ability to increase that any chance we get is certainly a benefit to us when it comes to recruiting and retaining our firefighters.”

The new $15-an-hour rate is still well below the almost $22/hour paid to wildland firefighters in Washington and Oregon.

The additional funding comes at a time when Idaho is struggling to recruit enough firefighters for the upcoming fire season. Without hazard pay, 40% of Idaho Department of Lands wildland firefighters do not return to work for the agency after two seasons.