Tester Leads Bill to Ensure Firefighter Safety During Pandemic

Legislation provides frequent tests, workers compensation for firefighters infected with COVID-19

As fire season gets underway, U.S. Senator Jon Tester is backing legislation to ensure the health and safety of wildland firefighters who travel the country protecting our communities during the pandemic.

“Wildfires aren’t taking the year off because of the pandemic, and neither are the brave women and men who travel the country protecting our communities during these natural disasters,” said Tester. “These folks work extremely hard to keep Montanans safe, and my legislation will make sure they aren’t stuck holding the bag if they get sick on the job.”

Tester’s COVID-19 as a Presumptive Disease in Wildland Firefighters Act requires Interior and Forest Service to test or quarantine wildland firefighters before the fire season begins or before they’re deployed to a fire site from a different job duty. If a firefighter tests positive for COVID within 28 days of the end of fire season, or the end of their deployment, they will be presumed to have contracted the disease on site for purposes of worker’s compensation eligibility. The same presumption also applies if a medical professional, through other evaluations like temperature and symptom checks, determines a wildland firefighter is likely infected.

As wildfire season begins and we continue to combat COVID-19, Senator Tester is fighting to ensure state, local, and federal firefighters have the resources they to stay safe. Tester led a bipartisan letter calling on Senate leadership to increase emergency funding to help buy personal protective equipment, provide additional benefits to those on the front line, and cut red tape to get funding out the door more quickly. Senator Tester has also introduced the Fair RETIRE Act to ensure any federal first responders do not suffer a loss of retirement benefits due to extended impacts of COVID exposure that prevents them from returning to duty.