When Contract Firefighters Die, Uncle Sam Turns Away
'A horrible inequity,' says one mom
By Arden Dier, Newser Staff
Posted Aug 19, 2013 10:43 AM CDT
Firefighters light a back burn near Pine, Idaho while fighting the Elk fire Wednesday Aug. 14, 2013.   (AP Photo/Idaho Statesman, Kyle Green)

(Newser) – When Caleb Renno died fighting a fire in 2008, his parents naturally sought federal death benefits for first responders. But Renno was a contract firefighter working for a private company, and the government said no way. It's a fine line that is the difference between a lifetime of financial security and scraping by, proving part-time firefighters aren't the only ones left out when it comes to survivor benefits. "It's just a horrible inequity," Renno's mom tells the New York Times. "These guys were doing some of the hardest firefighting there was, period. They were on the front lines."

There are some 11,500 contract firefighters—more than the 10,000 hired directly by the Forest Service each year—working for private firms across the country, the Times reports. They do the same work, often beside their government-employed counterparts. "The only difference is that if one of them dies, they’re not going to get benefits," Renno's mom says. Now families are taking up fights all their own. "These guys did their job," said one man seeking an appeal of his benefit application after his son, a contract firefighter, died on the job 10 years ago. "We’re going to push this all the way, as long as we can."

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Aug 19, 2013 9:09 PM CDT
Seems like city, county, state and federal government are intent on shortchanging first responders and fire fighters. I read where the city of Prescott AZ is refusing death benefits for several of the Granite Mountain Hotshots because they weren't full time with the Prescott Fire Department. Come on people and get serious about the heroes who put their lives on the line every time they go out and you all want to chisel/cheat them out of the benefits when they lose their lives protecting your butts. AAAARRRRGGGG! !! !
Aug 19, 2013 8:15 PM CDT
This isn't complicated, he's a human being who's family needs help. Why not help them? Feel free to add callous remarks, just remember when you're on the other end, someone will scrutinize even smaller details of why not too help instead of doing whats right.
Aug 19, 2013 2:50 PM CDT
In such a dangerous job, where death on the job is a very real possibility, why are these guys not making sure of their rights and benefits before they go out and risk their lives? I'm sorry, but that just seems like common sense to me.