Cubin Introduces Bill to Protect Aerial Firefighters and their Families
Legislation Extends Death Benefits to Families of Pilots and Crews
U.S. Representative Barbara Cubin (R-WY) reintroduced legislation today to extend federal death and disability benefits to the families of fallen aerial firefighters, continuing her four year battle to ensure that America's aerial firefighters receive the same benefits as other federal public safety officers.
"Aerial firefighters risk life and limb to protect the lives and property of U. S. citizen's everyday," Cubin said. "These pilots and crew members deserve the same benefits afforded to policeman, firefighters and other public safety officers should they be killed or injured in the line of duty. These brave men and women protect America and we have an obligation to protect them."
Cubin introduced H.R. 4280, the Aerial Firefighter Relief Act of 2007, identical to legislation she authored and championed in the 108th and 109th Congresses. Cubin worked with family members of fallen aerial firefighters as well as Members of Congress on both sides of the aisle to craft the legislation. Representatives Mike Thompson (D-CA) and Carolyn McCarthy (D-NY) joined Cubin as original co-sponsors of her bill.
Cubin's bill will make air tanker pilots and crew members eligible to receive benefits under the federal Public Safety Officers' Benefits (PSOB) program. The PSOB program is administered by the U.S. Department of Justice and provides a one-time, lump sum payment to surviving family members of public service officers killed in the line of duty.
Air tanker pilots are not considered public safety officers by the federal government. Since their work is extremely hazardous and frequently puts them in harms way, private life insurance is either too expensive or often unavailable altogether to aerial firefighters.
"These pilots and flight crews serve on the front lines when it comes to fighting wildfires," Cubin said. "Their families should not be left without any means of support just because private insurance companies refuse to provide reasonable coverage and the federal government has failed to step in."
The legislation also makes PSOB disability benefits available to aerial firefighters should they be injured in the line of duty. Disabled pilots and crew members would be eligible to receive compensation based on the severity of their injury.
Cubin's call for action comes in the wake of a year that saw devastating forest fires sweep across the western United States. This year alone, the National Interagency Fire Center reports that there have been 80,281 forest fires which burnt more than 8.9 million acres of land nationwide. Wyoming alone has had to combat 582 blazes burning 77,000 acres. As the threat of forest fires continues to plague the nation, Cubin is urging her colleagues in Congress to pass this critical legislation.
Companion legislation was also introduced in the Senate today by U.S. Senators Mike Enzi (R-WY) and Diane Feinstein (D-CA).