Seasonal firefighter, traditionally uninsured by federal healthcare will see changes to their health plans this month.
Obama will provide seasonal firefighters with federally insured healthcare coverage, a benefit unknown to such individuals until now. The decision will cost the federal government $17.5 million a year to fund and comes in the wake of several other efforts to amend this policy.
John Lauer, a Hotshot firefighter on the Tatanka crew located in Custer South Dakota, recently began an online petition in favor of healthcare benefits to seasonal fire crews.
“Sometimes I wonder if people know we’re uninsured,” said Lauer who assisted with the High Park fire, according to an article from the associated press.
The petition, posted on change.org received over 125,000 online signatures, a number that exploded during the High Park and Waldo Canyon fires.
Rep. Diana DeGette, D-Colo. also introduced legislation relating to healthcare insurance for firefighters on Tuesday.
“In recent weeks, this fight has clearly reminded all of us of what we owe to the people whose sacrifice and personal risk protect our homes, our families, and our communities,” she said in a written statement to Bloomberg Business.
Obama’s decision will affect about 8,000 seasonal firefighters, about half of the national firefighter force. While these individuals are seasonal, their duties are just as crucial.
Interagency Hotshot Crews (IHC) specialize in wildfire suppression; although, they can be called to assist in other emergencies including disaster response and search and rescue.
The first Hotshot Crews began in Southern California in the late 1940′s and monitored the Cleveland and Angeles National Forests. Today, the network of hotshot personnel expands nationwide. Colorado is base to five hotshot crews located in Estes Park, Craig, Monument, Fort Collins and Durango.