USA — The American Helicopter Services & Aerial Firefighting Association (AHSAFA) announces its support of the Fallen Wildland Firefighters Fair Compensation Act of 2013, as introduced by Oregon Senator Jeff Merkley.
Under the proposed legislation, the surviving spouses and children of fallen aerial and ground wildland firefighters, working under contract to the US Forest Service (USFS), agencies of the Department Of The Interior, or any state or local government entity, would be entitled to the same survivor benefits that other state and local firefighters and law enforcement officers now receive under the federal Public Safety Officers’ Benefits Act. The Bill, if enacted, would also provide disability benefits.
According to Senator Merkley’s office, some 10,000-15,000 firefighters, representing 40 percent of the men and women who fight fires on federal lands, annually, work under contract to the USFS.
“Right now, these courageous men and women, who often work under the direction of the USFS and other federal agencies, have no financial protection for their families in the event of death, or for catastrophic injuries sustained in the line of duty,” said Tom Eversole, AHSAFA’s Executive Director in Washington. “Wildland firefighting presents horrific challenges for airtanker and helicopter pilots supporting ground-based firefighters in rugged wilderness environments, often involving steep canyons, and heavy smoke resulting in poor visibility.”
Eversole noted that dropping water or fire retardant from the air, under those conditions, is by nature extremely hazardous and has occasionally claimed the lives of these dedicated air crews.
“As global warming increases the danger of extended fire seasons, and more destructive fires, many more pilots will be at risk of death or serious injury. This is why the American Helicopter Services & Aerial Firefighting Association urges Congress to put partisan differences aside and pass the Fallen Wildland Firefighters Fair Compensation Act.”
The American Helicopter Services And Aerial Firefighting Association is the Washington, DC-headquartered trade association representing the private aerial firefighting industry.