President Joe Biden announced pay raises for federal firefighters on Wednesday and said the United States was behind in its preparations for a potential record number of forest fires this year because of drought and high temperatures.
Biden’s remarks at a virtual meeting with governors of western states sought to show the White House is treating wildfires are no less a national emergency than hurricanes.
Biden said he would raise the pay of federal firefighters to at least $15 an hour and bonuses would be paid for those working on the front lines.
The White House also seeks to convert seasonal firefighting jobs to full-time to meet greater demand.
A bipartisan infrastructure bill includes nearly $50 billion in drought, wildfire, flood, and multi-hazard resilience programs, the White House said on Wednesday, while Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell upped pressure on fellow Republicans not to back it if it was linked with a second spending measure.