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Wildland firefighting is difficult, physically arduous work, often largely undertaken out of the public eye. Every year, thousands of federal, state, local, Tribal, military and contract firefighters and support personnel respond to wildland fires across the U.S. As a result of climate change and other factors, these wildfires are increasingly larger and more complex, placing additional demands on a dedicated workforce.
In honor of our nation’s wildland firefighters who answer the call throughout the year, the National Interagency Fire Center’s Fire Management Board is proud to proclaim July 2, “National Wildland Firefighter Day.” The board represents the national fire programs for the Bureau of Indian Affairs, Bureau of Land Management, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, National Park Service and USDA Forest Service, along with partners including the National Association of State Foresters, U.S. Fire Administration, the National Weather Service, and the Department of Defense. The July 2 date will hereafter be designated each year to honor the important work of wildland firefighters.
“Today we pause to recognize our dedicated wildland firefighters before they head out once again to fight larger and more intense wildfires across the West,” said Jerry Perez, Forest Service Director of Fire and Aviation Management. “These dedicated men and women are working to protect communities, private property and public lands in increasingly challenging conditions, and we are grateful for their work.”
“National Wildland Firefighter Day” will occur annually during the previously established, “Wildland Firefighter Week of Remembrance,” (June 30-July 6), during which wildland firefighters review the lessons of previous fatality fires and incorporate those safety principles into firefighting today. “National Wildland Firefighter Day” is the first designation of a day specifically for wildland firefighters.
“While we support and appreciate wildland fire personnel today and every day, National Wildland Firefighter Day is designed to recognize the hard work and devotion of all wildland firefighters and support personnel who are the backbone of the wildland fire community,” said Grant Beebe, Bureau of Land Management Assistant Director, Fire and Aviation Management.
On average, wildland firefighters respond to nearly 63,000 wildland fires every year across the U.S. Factors such as drought and wildfires in the wildland-urban interface have led to increasingly complex and challenging fire activity that starts earlier in the year and lasts later into the fall. Despite these conditions, wildland firefighters have remained dedicated and resilient – every year, they save lives, property, communities, infrastructure, and precious natural and cultural resources.
“Firefighters are integral to state operations, including those we rely on to help us from our federal and local interagency partners, private fire service and Tribal nations,” said George Geissler, Washington State Forester. “We could not do this alone.”
National Wildland Firefighter Day will offer an opportunity to reflect on those who have been lost during wildland firefighting while recognizing the on-going work of all federal, state, local, Tribal, military and contract wildland firefighters and support personnel.
Statement by President Joseph R. Biden, Jr. on National Wildland Firefighter Day
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.