DEGETTE ANNOUNCES BILL PROVIDING HEALTH INSURANCE TO FIREFIGHTERS ON FRONTLINES OF WILDFIRES
DENVER – Today, U.S. Rep. Diana DeGette (CO-1) announced that immediately upon the House returning to session next Monday, she will be introducing a bill she has written to ensure firefighters bravely fighting these wildfires receive health insurance. Right now Colorado is being devastated by some of the worst wildfires in the state’s history, and thousands of firefighters have been brought in from around the country to fight these unprecedented fires. Yet despite the massive personal risk of their jobs, neither the firefighters nor their families are covered for health insurance.
“As wildfires devastate our great state, and others around the West, it’s unconscionable that the thousands of brave men and women working night and day to save our homes and communities do not have health insurance for themselves or their families,” said DeGette. “That is why when I return to Washington next week, one of the first things I will do is introduce a bill to provide health care coverage to these firefighters and their families. Anyone brave enough to lay their life on the line to protect our homes and communities should have the peace of mind that their health and the health of their families is secured. I call on the rest of the Colorado delegation to join me in ensuring that these courageous firefighters and their families are protected.”
The firefighters currently fighting the Waldo Canyon fires, the High Park fire, and countless fires across the Western United States, work 18-hour days in unimaginably dangerous conditions, while enduring the risks of smoke inhalation and other ailments. They often work a full year’s worth of hours during the six-month fire season, yet do not receive health benefits. In contrast, the other forces deployed to assist in the firefighting efforts, like the National Guard, enjoy the security of full health care for themselves and their families.
“It is our honor and our duty to risk our lives for other people’s families and communities, but we don’t want to have to stay up nights worrying about what we’ll do if our child gets an ear infection, or if we develop breathing problems because of our job,” said John Lauer, a member of a Colorado-based “Hotshot” crew fighting fires in the West, and a leading advocate for health care for the firefighters. “We’re not looking for a handout, we just want to have access to the health care our colleagues do. We’re so proud to do what we do to protect people’s homes and their lives; we just want to be protected ourselves.”
Draft of bill available upon request