Today, on the first annual National Wildland Firefighter Day, I join Americans across the country in expressing deep gratitude for our wildland firefighters who heroically protect our communities and natural resources from wildfires.
Recognizing their service and sacrifice on this day is especially important because we continue to ask more of them year after year. In the past year and a half, I’ve met firefighters in Idaho, California, Colorado, and New Mexico who work night and day to keep people safe, all while fires are getting larger, more intense, and more difficult to control because of climate change, the accumulation of hazardous fuels in our forests, and evolving land development patterns.
Firefighters can spend months away from their loved ones, courageously working to save lives, homes, schools, businesses, natural resources, and wilderness areas. Beyond fighting fires, these dedicated women and men also work year-round to protect us from wildfires before they start by doing the important fuels management work needed to reduce the likelihood of catastrophic fire. This work is tough and extremely dangerous.
That’s why my Administration continues to make supporting this workforce a top priority. Building on what I initiated last year, the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law authorized historic new initiatives and resources for wildland firefighters that we are implementing now. This includes a substantial pay increase, new programs to support wildland firefighter mental and physical health, and the creation of a wildland firefighter job series that will improve recruitment, retention, and opportunities for professional growth.
We are also building our firefighting workforce, including converting more temporary firefighting positions to permanent jobs. And we’re further supporting our brave firefighters by doing everything we can to help reduce the risk of catastrophic fires, including proposing a nearly 60 percent increase in hazardous fuels management funds in my Fiscal Year 2023 Budget Request, and investing another $2.5 billion in this work over the next five years through my Bipartisan Infrastructure Law.
National Wildland Firefighter Day will occur annually during the previously established wildland firefighter Week of Remembrance. I’ve attended too many memorial services for the fallen, including almost nine years to the day, honoring 19 Granite Mountain Hotshot firefighters who died fighting the Yarnell Hill Fire in Arizona. They were some of the strongest, most disciplined, tenacious, physically fit firefighters in the world. So, this week we will also reflect on those firefighters who have fallen in the line of duty and renew our commitment to wildland firefighter safety. We pause to remember them, commemorate their selfless service, and thank their loved ones for their service and many sacrifices.
May God bless firefighters and their families across our Nation.