NFFE Pens Letter on Article Misrepresenting Efforts to Protect Wildland Firefighter Pay


Contact: Matt Dorsey
Phone: (2020) 550-6987

July 31, 2023

Washington, D.C. – Today, the National Federation of Federal Employees (NFFE) sent a letter to the editor-in-chief of The Intercept sharply criticizing a July 27 article that inaccurately portrayed NFFE’s fight to modernize the federal wildland fire services and help firefighters. The article, “Sinema Bill on Firefighter Pay is ‘Slap in the Face’ to Workers Battling Blazes,” misrepresented via omission the larger effort by NFFE and other stakeholders such as the Grassroots Wildland Firefighters to increase pay and improve working conditions and work-life balance for federal wildland firefighters.

“I don’t know if The Intercept article was a political hit piece or if it was just incredibly lazy reporting, but it was not helpful to our wildland firefighter cause,” stated NFFE Executive Director Steve Lenkart who was quoted in the article without being interviewed. “Given that the focus of the article was about bashing Senator Sinema and only her, my guess is that it was the former.”

The issues surrounding the federal wildland firefighter profession are as complex as the solutions required to fix them. These solutions rely on multiple legislative components working together, quickly, to stop the pay cliff in September and simultaneously advance other legislation for additional badly needed reforms this year. The letter sent from NFFE detailed misrepresentations via omission by The Intercept that included minimizing the complexity of the issues, misstating the purpose of several pieces of legislation currently pending in congress, and diminishing the contributions of stakeholders including the firefighters themselves in the fight for professional pay in a professional setting.

“I do not expect everyone to be an expert at congressional intent and procedure but if a professional publication writes an article, do it right,” continued Lenkart. “We have less than 60 days to pass a stopgap measure to prevent a massive pay cliff that will trigger an exodus from the federal wildland fire services. No one gets everything they want under such a scenario. The key is to do as much good as you can, when you can, and live to fight another day. We have to keep working and doing whatever it takes to win.”