MISSOULA, Mont. — Sen. Steve Daines held a roundtable with wildland firefighters at Neptune Aviation on Friday to discuss the upcoming fire season and issues with wildland firefighter retention.
Firefighters at the roundtable said a big issue is that seasonal firefighters are not properly taken care of because of the 1039 budget. 1039 represents the number of hours firefighters are allowed to work before they are required to receive government benefits.
Firefighters say after fire season wraps up that usually only allows about two weeks for other types of training, which is what helps qualify these men and women for other firefighting positions. These qualifications are often what allow seasonal firefighters to be offered full-time positions.
Wildland firefighters say the restrictions make it difficult to keep firefighters around for more than a few seasons.
Daines is proposing two new bills next week in partnership with Sen. Maria Cantwell from Washington.
The first bill will simply change the title of wildland firefighters. Federally, they are considered forestry technicians.
The second bill is called the Wildland Firefighters Fairness Act. This act aims to improve wildland firefighters’ compensation, retirement benefits and coverage in case of injury on the job.
Daines said he expects support for the bills from both Sen. Jon Tester and Rep. Greg Gianforte.