Mark Udall and Sen. Michael Bennet today released the following statements praising the joint Office of Personnel Management, U.S. Forest Service, and Department of Interior announcement that temporary federal firefighters, many whom are fighting or have fought the recent wildfires in Colorado, will have access to the same health care benefits federal employees receive.
"I have been working to provide these heroic firefighters with access to health insurance benefits, and am glad to see the President has used his authority to expedite that work," Udall said. "During this severe fire season, Coloradans have seen firsthand the great work our wildland firefighters do and the sacrifices they make to protect our homes and lives. It is only fitting that we do everything we can to support them."
"This is excellent news. Federal firefighters may be temporary employees but they leave a permanent mark on the families whose lives and properties they save. All too often, their grueling, life threatening work requires many more hours than the relatively comfortable and safe jobs so many of us hold," Bennet said. "It's unacceptable that these heroic men and women did not have access to health care benefits. Its symptomatic of a Washington that has a focus so far removed from the rest of the country. In Colorado, we watched them willingly risk their lives to fight fires across the state, including against the two most destructive fires in Colorado's history, both of which affected so many of our friends, family and neighbors. We all owe them a debt of gratitude, and health care benefits are the least they deserve."
Many federal firefighters are considered temporary employees because they are only employed for part of the year. As temporary employees they were not previously eligible for benefits such as health care and retirement pensions.