The federal government has made it clear for years now that it views climate change and its effects on our nation to be a worsening national security threat. One of the most dangerous results of the climate crisis has been prolonged and ever intensifying wildfire seasons in the western United States.
While we must deal with these consequences as a nation, the burden of fighting these infernos rests solely on the shoulders of our nation’s wildland firefighters. This year alone, nearly 7 million acres of land has been affected by wildfires, being battled by only 5,612 wildland firefighters. That’s a lot of work and stress on these men and women.
Recent polling highlights the strain and suffering these fire seasons have been causing the families of wildland firefighters, with the spouses of these frontline heroes stating that their significant others’ work puts stress on their family lives.
For too long, the efforts of these brave men and women have gone unappreciated by the federal government, who employs the majority of wildland firefighters in this country.
Fortunately for these firefighters and their families, this could be changing for the better.
In September, Congressman Joe Neguse, Co-Chair of the Bipartisan Wildfire Caucus, unveiled legislation he’s working on to include in the National Defense Authorization Act which would greatly bolster wildland firefighter benefits.
According to a statement provided by the congressman’s office:
“The Housing Our Firefighters Act would establish a housing stipend for federal wildland firefighters, hired at a location more than 50 miles from their primary residence, and the Care for Our Firefighters Act would secure mental health programs for federal wildland firefighters, including a mental health awareness campaign, peer-to-peer support network, expansion of the Critical Incident Stress Management Program, mental health leave, and ensuring trauma-informed mental health professionals are readily available to provide services.”
These bills are a major step forward to providing the wildland firefighter benefits and care these firefighters have earned with their blood, sweat, and tears, and we couldn’t be more excited to share this news with you.
Supporting our nation’s wildland firefighters is a core objective of Firefighters Support Alliance and we are pleased to be able to advocate for these heroes alongside you.
Image Credit: Photo by on Chris Boyer on Unsplash