Guest Post: Thank firefighters this Labor Day by supporting laws to protect them

Thank firefighters this Labor Day by supporting laws to protect them
By Rep. Mary Ann Dunwell

This Labor Day, I join many Montanans in thanking our hardworking firefighters, law enforcement and other emergency responders who fight this summer’s exceptionally intense, destructive wildfires. One way to express gratitude is to make sure Montana laws protect those who protect us.

Montana’s firefighters – from community volunteers to career city, state and federal emergency responders – sacrifice time away from their loved ones, friends, homes and work places. They breathe toxic smoke, endure the heat and face the unknown. They get hurt. Two brave hearts were killed this season. Let’s at least make their lives on and off the job easier with better resources, decent benefits and community prevention.

The Local Government Legislative Interim Committee met this summer and heard pleas for help from city and county leaders, firefighters and other public safety responders. Maximize fire service provisions, don’t be constrained by structure. Be open to options that work, like regional fire authorities to avoid duplication and maximize efficiencies for public safety. Update our antiquated century-old state laws.

Firefighters need the tools to do the job. One reason they stopped the recent Holmes Gulch fire from spreading to our Capital City was use of a super tanker on loan, parked at the Helena airport. Grant it, we can’t have a super tanker in every community. That’s unrealistic. But we can make sure equipment does the job, from trucks to telecommunications.

This fire season is an in-your-face (and in-your-lungs) reason why we should support presumptive illness legislation for firefighters and emergency responders. If a dedicated firefighter spends years battling fires and facing who knows what burning toxins, then we need to cover their medical expenses when they get sick down the road.  To do otherwise, is an unjust smokescreen of the truth.

All emergency responders should be covered by workers comp. Only two-thirds of Montana’s firefighters are covered. One-third are on their own. Most of these folks are our neighbors who serve in volunteer fire departments on the front lines of defense.

Lightning strikes start many other wildfires, but another 40 percent are caused by people – careless cigarettes, smoldering camp fires, pranks or fireworks in a drought. We need to do better fire prevention and legislate enhanced authority for counties to protect the public safety in a drought or other emergency condition. Without these things, no wonder communities have a hard time attracting volunteer firefighters anymore.

It’s easy to say thank you for saving us from wildfires. What takes grit is to come together and support state legislation that says we as Montanans have the backs of those who put their lives on the line to have our backs. Thank you firefighters!

*Rep. Mary Ann Dunwell represents Montana House District 84, Helena/East Helena in the State Legislature. She serves as Vice-Chair of the Local Government Legislative Interim Committee and can be reached at or (406) 461-5358.


9 Comments on "Guest Post: Thank firefighters this Labor Day by supporting laws to protect them"

  1. Dianne M Saichek | August 31, 2017 9:59 PM at 9:59 PM |

    Amen. I don’t vote in Montana, though I identify as a Montanan. I’ve supported Tester and I support this legislative effort to care for our firefighters.

  2. Agree!!

  3. Time to undo the Martz Tax Cut for the wealthy Someone who is making 230K should not be paying the same Montana income rate as I on 23K

  4. $230k a year is wealthy? That guy paying on $230k a year is taking it up the ass, so that the guy making $23k/yr doesn’t pay shit. You’re a liar, and apparently too stupid to read the tax rates you provided a link to. Waddadumbass!

    • No not really, Lynn paying on 23K is almost certainly paying a higher share of her earnings to taxes across the board than the 230K person. That’s also true for state and local taxes considered directly. Gladly, Montana is less regressive than many state but their is still that inequity. Maybe it’s you that should understand the tax code before mouthing off, Senior Wassadumbass.

    • The original Art Fenske | September 1, 2017 4:52 PM at 4:52 PM |

      You really like that whole “taking it up the ass” thing.

  5. Seems some people are unable to express their views with out vulgar gutter talk.

  6. boB AKA @Gyrogyrloose | September 2, 2017 6:26 PM at 6:26 PM |

    On the other hand we could take about 20% of the 60% we spend on Defense and use it to train and equip an “Army” to respond to natural disasters, including cleanup and reconstruction afterwards. Rather than waging war we could wage peace, probably doing far more to reduce terrorist activity than all the drone strikes we can manage. And America wouldn’t be sitting here with crumbling infrastructure being further degraded by climate change-aggravated storms. Plus-while everybody prays to God for help it’s mostly gubmint workers who show up to save everybody. Sadly, as those government employees are busy saving lives, Congress is moving to destroy their Unions and take their health care insurance.

  7. It makes me sometimes wonder if anyone but me and Steve Running noticed the record temps in Montana this summer? Are we going to be working on the assumption that forest thinning will help create lower temps? Will we be standing in the rubble of our burnt houses arguing about Obama creating Global Warming or if it is all a made in China plot to weaken our defenses to plastic toys? I hear a lot of people flapping their yaps, about logging and how things used to be, but no one seems to take responsibility for Global Warming…..

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