Friday, June 15, 2012

Wildfire FireFighters Go Without Health Insurance...

According to the US Fire Administration, a branch of FEMA, there were more than  78,792 wildfires in 2009.  These fires burned a total of  6,00,000  ( 9,375 sq miles) an area larger than my home state of New Hampshire.

In the last 12 years, 179 firefighters died on the job while putting out these blazes….and that doesn’t include the numbers of firefighters who were injured or who are suffering long-term health effects from intense exposure to heat and smoke.

And in spite of the heroic efforts put forth by those who put their lives on the line saving other people’s property…the federal government refuses to allow these firefighters to access government employee health insurance, because they are considered "temporary employees."  The perverse irony of that is that more effective the firefighters are, the more they are marginalized as just 'temporary' workers.

Jon Lauer, a Denver, Colorado firefighter, has initiated a campaign to change this federal policy.  In an open letter to President Obama, Lauer writes:

“Dear President Obama,

I am writing to request an optional health benefits plan for seasonally employed federal wildland firefighters and their families.

The work that wildland firefighters perform is critical. Each year they are responsible for keeping tens of thousands of homes and businesses from being consumed, often protecting entire towns from the threat of fire.

Because wildfire is overwhelmingly more common between the months of May to October, the majority of firefighters are seasonally employed. More than 90% of these return to service year after year. They often work the equivalent of a full year's worth of hours in six to seven months, but are never given the opportunity to buy into a government health care plan even at the most basic level, because they are classified as temporary workers.

There are many risks these brave men and women take in order to serve their community. Since the year 2000, 179 wildland firefighters have been killed in the line of duty, and the conditions of the firefighting environment have been linked to cancer and respiratory disease leading to permanent lung damage.

Seasonal federal wildland firefighters demonstrate a commitment to service equal to that of permanently employed firefighters and other emergency responders. It is only right and fair that they have access to a quality, affordable health plan for themselves and their families. I urge you to introduce legislation that makes seasonally employed federal wildland firefighters and their immediate families eligible for year-round health insurance coverage.”

Lauer has an online petition at :

 We encourage support of Lauer and America’s firefighters.


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