U.S. SENATE —U.S. Senators Steve Daines (R-MT) and Maria Cantwell (D-WA) today introduced two bipartisan, bicameral bills to protect and recognize wildland firefighters.
First, the Wildland Firefighter Recognition Act requires the federal government to provide a special designation to call wildland firefighters just that, wildland firefighters, rather than their current designation as forestry technicians. Providing wildland firefighters with the proper title will improve recruitment efforts and morale and also give due recognition to those brave individuals who risk their lives to protect others’ and their property.
Second, the Wildland Firefighter Fairness Act addresses several technical problems wildland firefighters face. Currently, many wildland firefighters are seasonal workers, meaning they are barred from working over 1,040 hours per year. As a result, wildland firefighters often have their fire seasons cut short, jeopardizing public safety. Additionally, under current law, their workers’ compensation pay excludes overtime pay, which can create hardship since overtime pay can represent a substantial portion of total compensation due to long days during fire season. Also, should a wildland firefighter be injured and take another position within the Forest Service, currently they must cede the 20-year retirement track they earn from serving in a hazardous job role. The Wildland Firefighter Fairness Act addresses each of these problems by establishing a five-year pilot program that would exclude fire staging time from seasonal wildland firefighters’ 1,040 hour limit, would require overtime pay be considered for calculating workers’ compensation, and would allow injured wildland firefighters to retain their 20-year retirement track if kept in an equivalent position.
“Wildland firefighters should have the recognition they deserve,” Senator Daines stated. “We must enhance public safety and protect firefighters while also ensuring that injured wildland firefighters have the retirement they have earned.”
“Firefighters on the front lines and those who gave their lives to protect us deserve fair treatment from their government,” Senator Cantwell said. “I am pleased to be teaming up with Senator Daines to introduce this bipartisan bill which addresses some of the issues important to our firefighters and I urge my colleagues to support its swift passage.”
Yesterday, Daines met with the Wildland Firefighter Foundation in his Washington, D.C. office. Pictured: Brendan Mullen, Tyson Lucier, Dina Pfeifer and Shane Ralston.
Federal Wildland Fire Service Association: “The FWFSA and all of our Nation’s federal wildland firefighters owe a significant debt of gratitude to Senator’s Daines & Cantwell along with their staff who have taken the time and had the courage to understand the issues facing our firefighters and work to achieve the goals that will lead to a more effective & efficient federal wildfire response.”
Vicki Minor, Executive Director, Wildland Firefighter Foundation: “I would like to recognize Senator Daines and Cantwell for his support on these important issues that face our wildland firefighters. I would also like to thank Senator Daines for being a champion for the wildland firefighter and look forward to his continuing leadership on these issues.”
The Wildland Firefighter Fairness Act is available HERE.
The Wildland Firefighter Recognition Act is available HERE.