October 27, 2021

Neguse, Cheney team up to help out firefighters

Liberal Democrat Joe Neguse of Colorado and conservative Republican Lynn Cheney have a common cause they care deeply about: taking care of wildland firefighters.

The political odd couple penned an op-ed Wednesday in The Hill, a Washington, D.C.-focused news outlet, about their plan to raise pay and benefits for those increasingly called on to protect communities, forests and fauna.

"It’s long past time for Congress and the federal government to fully recognize the ongoing service and sacrifice of federal wildland firefighters by raising compensation, providing essential benefits and classifying them appropriately," they wrote.

Colorado Politics told readers on Oct. 19 that Neguse is pushing a bipartisan bill, called the Tim Hart Wildland Firefighter Classification and Pay Parity Act.

The bill would overhaul the pay, benefits and job classifications of federal firefighters, raising their federal pay grade from just $13.45 an hour to $20 an hour, while ensuring health care and mental health benefits, increasing paid leave and, for those with 10 years' experience, retirement benefits. The bill also would provide one week of mental health leave annually and ensure appropriate lodging while crews are away from home on duty.

"Throughout our nation, our smokejumpers, hotshot crews, helitacks, rappelers and countless specialized trained federal firefighters are answering the call of duty," Neguse and Cheney wrote. "This bill honors their dedication to protecting homes, livelihoods and our communities."

The legislation is named for Tim Hart, a 36-year-old smokejumper from Cody, Wyoming, who died fighting the Eicks Fire in New Mexico last May.

Read the full op-ed by clicking here.

By:  Joey Bunch
Source: Colorado Springs Gazette