Cantwell, Daines Introduce Legislation to Protect and Recognize Wildland Firefighters
WASHINGTON D.C. — U.S. Senators Maria Cantwell (D-WA) and Steve Daines (R-MT) today introduced two bipartisan, bicameral pieces of legislation to protect and recognize wildland firefighters.
“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."
“Wildland firefighters should have the recognition they deserve,” Daines stated. “We can enhance public safety and protect firefighters while also ensuring that injured wildland firefighters have the retirement they have earned.”
The Wildland Firefighter Recognition Act requires the federal government to provide a 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, they must currently cede the 20-year retirement track they earned 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 those injured wildland firefighters to retain their 20-year retirement track if kept in an equivalent position.
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.”
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