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Biden to meet with governors on weather, hike salaries for firefighters

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – President Joe Biden said on Tuesday he will host a meeting next week of governors from states in the western United States, cabinet members and federal emergency management officials to help prepare for heat, drought and wildfires.

With hurricane season under way and a heat wave afflicting the U.S. west, Biden told reporters that he wanted to make sure the United States is in a position to help Americans deal with severe weather.

“We’re in for a tough season,” Biden said at the start of a meeting with Deanne Criswell, administrator of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, and homeland security adviser Elizabeth Sherwood-Randall and other officials.

Biden also vowed to increase wages for federal firefighters, saying their current pay of $13 an hour was ridiculous.

“I just realized – I didn’t realize this, I have to admit – that federal firefighters get paid $13 an hour. That’s going to end in my administration. That’s a ridiculously low salary to pay a federal firefighter.”

Biden said it was critical for the United States to be prepared and have every resource available to address flooding, wildfires and other extreme weather events.

White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki told reporters earlier that Biden wanted to meet with federal emergency management officials to discuss preparedness and response efforts given the onset of peak wildfire and storm season.

In a speech last week, Criswell said 2020 was one of the most active hurricane seasons in U.S. history, coupled with the pandemic, and warned that climate change would exacerbate weather conditions in the future.

“We are now getting accustomed to a ‘new normal’ while the world continues to change before our eyes,” she said. “Weather patterns are telling us that the 2021 hurricane and wildfire seasons could be busy again.”

(Reporting by Andrea Shalal and Steve Holland; Editing by Alistair Bell)

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