Good News about Firefighter Health Benefits

I’ve noticed many stories about this but here’s a link to one and an excerpt below. It’s nice when we can see the world getting better..

In the meantime, Obama has instructed the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, the Interior Department and the Agriculture Department — parent agency of the Forest Service — to “ensure temporary federal firefighters who are bravely battling fires have access to the health insurance they deserve,” the official said.

The official added that the president acted after the issue was brought to his attention following his trip late last month to Colorado Springs, Colorado, where Obama toured damage caused by that state’s most destructive wildfire on record.

The so-called Waldo Canyon, which broke out June 23, killed two people and gutted nearly 350 homes and forced the evacuation of some 35,000 people. Ranked as one of worst conflagrations to date during the 2012 wildfire season nationwide, it was finally declared 100 percent contained late Tuesday.

At that time, the White House said that more than 8,800 firefighters were at work against dozens of wild-land blazes burning across the country, most of them in the West.

Some 15,000 firefighters are on the federal government payroll, but 8,000 of them are classified as temporary, seasonal employees and thus ineligible for federal benefits such as health insurance, according to Rachel LaBruyere, an organizer of the petition drive on the nonpartisan social action website

“It’s a huge deal, and there’s going to be a lot of really, really happy firefighters out there tonight,” said John Lauer, 27, seasonal member of a “hot-shot” crew from Custer, South Dakota, who initiated the petition drive seeking health benefits. “I’m sure they’re all very thankful for what the president’s done.”

4 thoughts on “Good News about Firefighter Health Benefits”

  1. I wonder if other Forest Service temporaries, essential to full functioning of the Agency, will continue to be one hour short of getting benefits, like employee-paid health insurance. As it has always been, temps have been seen as highly replaceable and disposable.

  2. Well, the firefighter health benefits does raise an equity issue. But if we went any further in this discussion we might regurgitate some of the health policy debates that this country has been having in other venues ;)…

  3. I would also say that, day in and day out, monitoring logging operations 5 days per week is more dangerous than the average firefighter job. We have to deal with health issues everyday, including the fine dust from active skid trails, the thick pollen coating all the vegetation, and the ample amounts of yellowjackets’ nests in the ground.

    The Forest Service continues to struggle with OPM personnel rules for temporaries. We have plenty of work to do but, each of us can only work for 1039 hours per year (six months minus one hour). These rules are supposed to “protect temporary employees”.

  4. Not to mention the fact that long-term temporaries have no pathway to permanent, career-status jobs. I count myself extraordinarily lucky to have been “snuck in” under the SCEP program before it was terminated… many of my co-workers on the Tongass are not similarly advantaged.


Leave a Comment