On a a recent trip to Colorado Springs, the president was apparently moved by the men and women firefighters he met, senior administration officials said in an interview Tuesday. When he returned to Washington, he told his cabinet that he wanted to "find a solution" for the hundreds of workers toiling in dangerous conditions without the option to buy in to federal insurance.
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Meanwhile, Rep Diana DeGette, (D - Colorado) introduced a bill in Congress Tuesday that would give health and life insurance benefits to some seasonal firefighters.
According to DeGette's office, the bill is limited to employees of a federal land management agency such as the US Forest Service or Bureau of Land Management.
Seasonal wildland firefighters are classified as temporary employees, but DeGette says they often work enough overtime to far exceed the number of hours of a temporary classification.
"Because they're classified as temporary employees, they don't get health insurance, and they don't get life insurance," said DeGette.
Some firefighters have complained about the issue, rallying thousands to their cause through a petition.
"They are working just as hard as the full-time firefighters. They are working side-by-side with state and local firefighters who do get health insurance, yet if they get sick, if they're killed when they're trying to fight these fires, they don't get any of the benefits that their colleagues who are working alongside of them get," DeGette said.
DeGette hopes to offset the cost of providing benefits by finding cuts elsewhere in the federal budget, but she thinks the proposal could save money in the long run.
She hopes her bill, the Wildland Firefighters Health Protection Act, could reduce the need to hire contract fire crews by making seasonal firefighting a more attractive job.
DeGette says she is speaking with all of the Colorado congressional delegation to try to earn support for her bill and says that she does have Republican support from some other Western states.