When smokejumper Tim Hart died from injuries sustained during a hard landing in New Mexico in May, his wife Michelle Hart quickly realized that she needed a way to channel her grief. She also realized she was in a unique position to draw attention to the needs of wildland firefighters—she had a personal connection to the issues facing them, and as a lobbyist, she also had the legislative chops to make legitimate change at a congressional level. This all culminated in the creation of the Tim Hart Wildland Firefighter Classification and Pay Parity Act, which addresses firefighter compensation, benefits, access to mental health resources and availability of housing for firefighters, among other provisions.
We spoke with Michelle about the bill and the grief that influenced its creation back in November. They’ve continued garnering support for the bill, though not much as changed with the bill since when we chatted with Michelle. As of January 19, the bill has been referred to the subcommittee on Conservation and Forestry, where it awaits support from the senate.