More than 8,000 seasonal federal wildland firefighters and their families will no longer have to fear bankruptcy when being injured on the job, or if their child gets sick. President Obama announced they will now be eligible for health insurance.
The news comes on the heels of a National Federation of Federal Employees (NFFE) campaign to expand health care to the firefighters. Seasonal federal firefighters typically work about six months of the year, making them ineligible for benefits.
The campaign began two months ago when NFFE-member and federal firefighter John Lauer and some friends from Custer, South Dakota, came together to start a petition. Lauer, with the help of his union, collected more than 125,000 signatures and gained widespread media attention.
For NFFE/IAM Federal District 1 National President William R. Dougan, a former temporary seasonal wildland firefighter himself, the victory has been long overdue. “No longer do our firefighters have to fear incurring thousands in medical bills if they are injured outside of the job, or if their child gets sick,” said Dougan. “These brave individuals put their lives on the line every year to protect our homes and communities. I could not be more proud that this new policy returns the favor by giving them the protection they need.”
Dougan says the work does not stop there. Thousands of temporary seasonal employees outside of the firefighting profession still toil without access to basic health insurance. NFFE is working closely with the White House, the Office of Personnel Management, and Congress to ensure that all temporary seasonal employees get the coverage they deserve.