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Merkley Introduces Legislation To Provide Benefits To Families Of Fallen Firefighters
Oregon’s Senator Jeff Merkley introduced the Fallen Wildland Firefighters Fair Compensation Act that would allow aerial and ground contracted firefighters to be covered for death and disability benefits under the Public Safety Officers’ Benefits Act. Currently, these benefits are granted to state and local police, firefighters, EMTs and federally employed wildland firefighters, but not contracted wildland firefighters, even though 40% of firefighters who battle blazes on federal land are contracted. Senator Merkley crafted this legislation after hearing from families of contracted Oregon firefighters who had been killed in 2008 and were denied death benefits.
“Every summer across Oregon, thousands of contract firefighters risk their lives fighting to protect our federal forests, grasslands, and lands,” said Merkley. “It is past time that we make sure that if the worst happens while on the job, the families of fallen firefighters are granted proper benefits.”
Typically, contracted firefighters account for 10,000-15,000 people each year. While these men and women work and train alongside of and even receive direction from the U.S. Forest Service, in the unfortunate event of death or traumatic injury, contract firefighters cannot receive comparable benefits to federal employees. This bill would give the surviving spouses and children of fallen firefighters the same survivor benefits that those of other firefighters and law enforcement receive.