Congressman Neguse Provides Safe Housing and Mental Health Services to Wildlands Federal Fighters
WASHINGTON – Congressman Joe Neguse, co-chair of the Bipartisan Wildfire Caucus, has passed two proposals by the United States House of Representatives.
These two laws, called the Housing Our Firefighters Act and the Care for Our Firefighters Act, each aim to meet the needs of many federal forest fighters.
The Housing for Our Firefighters Act establishes a housing allowance for federal wildland firefighters, hired more than 50 miles from their primary residence, and the Care for Our Firefighters Act would ensure mental health programs for federal wildland firefighters. including a mental health awareness campaign, peer support network, expansion of the critical incident stress management program, mental health leave and ensuring that mental health professionals knowledgeable about trauma are available to provide their services.
Congressman Neguse introduced the two provisions as stand-alone measures and as amendments to the Fiscal Year 2022 National Defense Authorization Act and plans to introduce comprehensive legislation to revise pay soon. , benefits and classification of federal firefighters.
This increase in public demand and the expectations placed on wildland firefighters to respond to ever increasing wildfires is only expected to increase exponentially in the years to come. The current federal forest fire workforce are understaffed, overworked and suffering from various mental health issues, suicides, high divorce rates and high incidence of cancer and cardiovascular disease that they do not have the appropriate resources to deal with .
âOur federal firefighters, many of whom are veterans, are just not getting the support they need. As the impacts of climate change worsen, forest fire seasons become increasingly intense and long, and it is essential that we provide the support necessary to equip our firefighters and support this highly skilled profession, âsaid Congressman Joe Neguse.
Neguse added that the provisions are just the first step among many in helping federal firefighters get the support they need.
âGrassroots Wildland Firefighters support these amendments and thank Representative Neguse for these first steps to help reduce the housing insecurity and mental health issues prevalent among our federal firefighters. We are grateful for the long-awaited Congressional leadership that Representative Neguse is taking in addressing the classification, compensation and benefits, as well as the overall health and welfare of our Federal Wildland, Fighting workforce, âsaid declared Grassroots Wildland Firefighters.
Every major wildfire in the United States relies on federal wildland fire response with federal wildland firefighters and the vital services provided by their specialist teams to protect life and property. The Forest Service employs the majority of the nation’s wildland firefighters, more than 10,000 people, fighting wildfires in all 50 states and internationally. In addition, the federal government provides advanced skill units such as Hotshot Crews, Smokejumpers, Rappellers, Helitack Crews, and Wildland Fire Modules, as well as the engines and crews it employs at higher levels than its non-federal counterparts.
Forest firefighters are classified as âforest techniciansâ paid an hourly wage of $ 13.45 at the GS-3 level and often do not receive adequate health benefits or housing while on the job.
Firefighters across the country also kill themselves 30 times more often than the public and have a 30% increased risk of cardiovascular disease and 43% increased risk of lung cancer.
Read the Act respecting the housing of our firefighters HERE.
Read the Act respecting the care of our firefighters HERE.