Liz Cheney: We Must Provide Wildland Firefighters With Adequate Pay, Salary, & Benefits
Earlier this month, Representative Liz Cheney announced that she was co-sponsoring a bill that would increase the pay and benefits for federal wildland firefighters. The bill, nicknamed the 'Tim Hard Wildland Firefighter Classification and Pay Parity Act' would also change their classification.
On Wednesday afternoon, Congresswoman Cheney spoke at the House Natural Resources Subcommittee hearing and discussed the bipartisan legislation that was introduced by Representative Joe Neguse (D-CO) and co-sponsored by Representtives Katie Porter (D-CA) and Salud Carbajal (D-CA).
"We all recognize the critical role that our wildland firefighters play in helping us deal with the forest that the committee has been discussing this morning, as they've raged all across the West," Cheney stated. "[We're] making sure that we're in a position where we are providing the kind of resources our wildland firefighters need, the kind of benefits they need, and the kind of commitment they need through adequate pay and salary, to make sure that we recognize the real danger that they face and the sacrifice that they make to keep us safe."
Cheney went on to acknowledge that the bill is, in fact, bipartisan, and said that because of that distinction, she hopes it moves through the House quickly.
"I'm proud that this has been a bipartisan bill," she said. "I am hopeful that we'll be able to move it quickly through committee, and to ensure that we get it across the Floor over in the Senate as well and to the President's desk for signature, so we can both remember the sacrifice of our wildland firefighters like Tim Hart, and also make sure that we're continuing to provide the resources they need."
Tim Hart, the namesake of the legislation, was a firefighter from Cody, Wyoming. Hart was a Smokejumper who suffered a hard fall on May 24, while responding to a wildland fire in New Mexico. Hart's death resulted in an outpouring of support from fellow firefighters, and he was the catalyst for the bill, co-sponsored by Cheney.
"My heart goes out to the family and friends of Tim Hart, a smokejumper with the Forest Service from Cody," Cheney wrote in a social media post shortly after his death was announced. "Throughout his firefighting career, Tim dedicated his life to protecting others and keeping communities safe. Please join me in praying for his loved ones."
The 'Tim's Act' Bill would speficially increase the pay of wildland firefighters from $13 an hour to $20 and hour, and would also expand who is able to seek retirement benefits. It would also provide housing stipends and one week of mental health leave.
Important to note is that this legislation would not apply to volunteer firefighters who, K2 Radio News reported, make up the majority of firefighters across the country. There are 114 fire departments in Wyoming, and 88.6% of them are made up of volunteer or mostly-volunteer firefighters.