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Angeles National Forest firefighters make their way into a brush fire spread out over an area of more than 500 acres (2 square km) at Los Padres National Forest in California June 16, 2012... The fire started on Saturday afternoon in the hills of the forest between the cities of Frazier Park and Ojai. No structures have been burned and the fire-fighters have no containment on the blaze at this time. Picture taken June 16. REUTERS/Gene Blevins  (UNITED STATES - Tags: DISASTER ENVIRONMENT)
(Gene Blevins/Reuters)
While Colorado goes up in flames, and the Republican wing of the Supreme Court writes the dismantling of Obamacare, the men and women hired by the federal government to fight wildfire are risking life and limb. Many of them are doing it without health insurance.
Of all the jobs where you might want health insurance, firefighting near certainly ranks near the top of the list. Firefighters spend two-week shifts working 18 hour days in dangerous conditions. Some develop breathing problems due to smoke inhalation.

But many federal firefighters are temporary employees, who only work six months out of the year. [...] Under federal regulations, temporary employees of the Forest Service do not receive benefits. That means no health care and no retirement pension.

“A lot of them are not making a lot,” says Bill Dougan, president of the National Federal of Federal Employees. “The only way they can afford insurance is if they have a spouse that might be able to get coverage under an employer. In some places that’s not an option.”

This is the status quo Republicans have been fighting for for the past two years. If the Affordable Care Act survives the Supreme Court Republican five tomorrow, it could help. Many of the firefighters make little enough to qualify for the subsidies to purchase insurance, making the premiums in reach. They'd also be guaranteed access to affordable health insurance, something that can be a problem for people in high-risk jobs.

If the Supreme Court five make the ACA go away tomorrow, nothing changes for these wildfire fighters in the immediate term, but they'll be denied those near-future benefits and the hope that they could continue to do this critical job and protect themselves a little bit. Their hopes go up in smoke, and Republicans will cheer.

1:41 PM PT:Please sign this petition demanding that Speaker John Boehner and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid introduce legislation to make these and other wildfire fighters eligible for federal health insurance.

Originally posted to Joan McCarter on Wed Jun 27, 2012 at 09:00 AM PDT.

Also republished by MomsRising at DailyKos and Daily Kos.

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