Washington, D.C. – This week, Colorado U.S. Senator Michael Bennet co-sponsored the COVID-19 as a Presumptive Disease in Wildland Firefighters Act, legislation to protect and support wildland firefighters during the Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic by providing universal testing and Workers’ Compensation for firefighters who contract the virus. Bennet’s co-sponsorship of this legislation responds to concerns voiced by fire policy leaders around Colorado.
“Fighting wildfires is already grueling, life threatening work – and even more so during a pandemic. Firefighters willingly risk their lives to protect communities across our state from wildfires, working, sleeping, and eating in dangerous and often restrictive environments,” said Bennet. “This legislation will support our fire crews by making sure they’re properly tested for COVID before coming to work, and taken care of if they do contract the virus. For the heroic men and women that protect our homes and our lives, this is the least we can do.”
The COVID-19 as a Presumptive Disease in Wildland Firefighters Act, led by U.S. Senators Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) and Tom Udall (D-N.M.), would require universal COVID-19 testing for firefighters prior to beginning work this fire season; and would ensure firefighters who contract COVID-19 are presumed to have contracted the virus in the line of duty, making them eligible for Workers’ Compensation. Expediting the Workers’ Compensation process would protect these emergency personnel and the fire crews tasked with protecting the public in the case of wildfire.
In May, Bennet pressed the U.S. Forest Service on their COVID-19 planning efforts to protect communities and firefighters heading into the 2020 wildfire season.
“I would like to thank Senator Bennet for his leadership on this critical issue. The COVID-19 crisis has been on a collision course with the 2020 Wildfire Season and the smaller rural communities are typically impacted by these events yet have limited resources and ability to rapidly test large groups of First Responders. Federal action is needed to protect the health and lives of our firefighters, law enforcement officers and the communities they are trying to protect from wildfire during this global pandemic,” said La Plata County Sheriff, Sean Smith.
The bill text is available HERE.