Friday, May 12, 2017

Essential Firefighting Personnel

To be an effective wildland fire/ all hazards response organization who and what duties are essential in the 21st century.  This was a topic at our most recent Labor/ Management meeting (essential firefighting personnel) and will be revisited on May 22nd when a committee meets to see if Police and Fire retirement benefits should be extended beyond the current designated job classifications and Incident Command System (ICS) positions.

The question of who these personnel are and how to recognize their contributions is difficult, more so when you go beyond the traditional on the ground firefighter and those who provide direct supervision and organizational control.  Urban police and fire personnel are certainly not as efficient when not supported by 911 dispatchers and fire chiefs.

One part of this recognition is to be included in the Police and Fire Retirement (P&F) benefit pool. Forestry wildland firefighters were not recognized as being firefighters until the 1990’s when a legislative solution to a lawsuit brought by Jesse Backman was signed into law giving the State Forester the ability to designate those eligible to receive Police and Fire Retirement benefits.  At that time non-strikeable firefighting position classifications (12 month benefit) and those ICS positions (5 month benefit - a typical fire season) associated directly with firefighting operations and those where there was a ladder from firefighting to direct supervisory or select command and general staff positions were included.  The only change I know of from the original designation is that Forest Inmate Crew Coordinators now receive P&F benefits for 12 months in recognition of their availability to respond to all hazard emergencies year around.

If you think that you are one of the Department’s essential firefighting personnel and should receive P&F benefits in recognition for your contributions please let me know, especially before May 22nd.  I would really like to hear your story and reasons.