Georgia Governor Nathan Deal visited Fire House 1 in Gilmer County Thursday to officially sign House Bill 146 known as the “Firefigher’s Cancer Insurance Bill.”
Joined by several officials including Georgia House Speaker David Ralston and Senator Steve Gooch, author of the bill Micah Gravley, District 67 Representative, opened the ceremony by speaking about the two year effort to bring the bill to this point. Gravley related his interactions with two firefighters, Frank Martinez and Brian Scutter, who he said were the honor of the Bill as they fought for and spoke with legislators to get the bill passed, as well as the appropriateness to have the signing in Scutter’s home station in Gilmer County. Scutter was also mentioned by Speaker Ralston who said he had made a promise to Brian that he would give all that was in him to bring this day about. Turning to face Scutter, Ralston said, “I kept my promise.”
Governor Nathan Deal, who originally vetoed last year’s Bill 216 called the new House Bill 146 an “innovative and great solution to the situation.” Deal said the Bill provides relief for firefighters by providing a different method for compensation and money for treatment and care for firefighters who contract cancers during their work. Gravley thanked the Governor for his support of, as he called it, a “better bill.”
The sentiment was echoed by Speaker Ralston who said, “We have arrived at a better solution. By requiring a local government to provide insurance to our firefighters for certain types of cancer, the firefighter can skip the process of litigating a worker’s comp claim. This will allow the firefighter to focus on getting better and recovery rather than having to worry about legal bills and depositions and hearings.”
FYN caught up with Speaker Ralston and Governor Deal to ask them to elaborate on why the bill is better, comparative to last years Bill 216. The Speaker replied saying, “This uses a Health Insurance Model as opposed to a Workman’s Comp model which means instead of having to make a claim and perhaps go through a court type process to get benefits and income, Firefighters in this case will file a claim just like health insurance.”
Governor Deal also spoke on the insurance versus workman’s comp comparison saying it was an awkward and “adversarial way of deciding whether or not compensation is owed.” Deal went on to say the newer Bill is a much better solution “to provide insurance coverage that will define benefits and give some flexibility as to deciding the compensation that will be given to firefighters.”
More than Senators and Congressman came to see Deal sign the Bill, though. Several representatives from neighboring and local emergency services attended the event including Gilmer’s own Director of Public Safety Tony Pritchett who said the Bill “gives you a sense of protection… You can lay your head down and sleep better at night knowing that if you contract cancer because of the job, there’s some protection that will take care of you and your family.”
For more on the Signing of House Bill 146 watch the full ceremony below or find more Photos in our Album:
Raging fires have been spreading through dry land in the North Georgia Mountains for weeks. A few sprinkles of rain fell in the past few days but really didn’t make much of an impact.
The local community appreciates the firefighters and a local church in Chatsworth decided to show it on Thanksgiving Day! The First Baptist Church of Chatsworth fed over 400 out of town firefighters who didn’t make it home to be with their families. Locals from various areas including Blue Ridge brought food to the Church to assist in the program to feed the firefighters. Much of the food cooked in their homes and a local Ingles Market also took orders from those who wanted to donate a meal but didn’t have time to cook.
A local man told us, “It’s a small effort to say a big thank you to those firefighters protecting us and our homes.”
Firefighters have been working tirelessly for weeks to battle the wildfires and a home cooked meal of turkey was an extension of the gratitude felt by the folks in the North Georgia Mountains.
Rough Ridge Fire Update
A small wildfire discovered in the Cohutta Wilderness on October 16 has grown to 10 acres and is highly visible across Fannin, Gilmer and surrounding counties. The fire is not threatening any private lands or structures.
The Rough Ridge wildfire is located approximately 1.5 miles north of Three Forks trailhead on the east side of the Rough Ridge trail, and is at 3500 feet elevation on extremely steep slopes. The nearest private land is located 1.5 miles to the northeast. This wildfire is most active on the northwestern and southern flanks. Flame lengths are less than one foot and the rate of spread has been slow. Lightning is believed to have started the fire.
Because this wildfire is located within a congressionally designated Wilderness Area, it is managed differently than some other wildfires. Actions are limited to those that safely and effectively suppress the fire when needed to protect life and property and to meet other objectives.
“Natural processes, such as lightning caused fires, have helped shape the forest type you see today in the Cohutta Wilderness,” says Conasauga District Ranger Jeff Gardner.
Fire personnel are currently monitoring the Rough Ridge wildfire and using Minimum Impact Suppression Tactics to allow ecological and biological processes to progress naturally while reducing the long-term effects of the suppression actions. Fire management strategies are based on many factors, including risks to public and firefighter safety; condition of fuels; predicted weather; values to protect; and available firefighting assets. These strategies may change as conditions change.
This week, firefighters have suppressed five other small fires on the Conasauga Ranger District, all located outside Wilderness Areas. As warm, dry weather persists, fire danger remains High for this area. High winds today and tomorrow are contributing to the fire danger.
Current closures associated with the Rough Ridge wildfire include the entire length of Rough Ridge trail from East Cowpen trail to the Jacks River trail.
A campfire restriction issued on October 12, 2016, includes all of the Chattahoochee National Forest, including the Cohutta Wilderness. The restriction prohibits building, maintaining, attending or using a fire or campfire outside of developed recreation areas. That means that only campfires built within metal fire rings in developed campsites are allowed. There are no developed campsites within Cohutta Wilderness.
To learn more about Georgia’s national forests, download the official free mobile app for your smartphone or tablet, or visit us on the web at www.fs.usda.gov/conf. You can also get the latest forest news by liking us on Facebook and following us on twitter @ChattOconeeNF.
The Chattahoochee-Oconee National Forests provide the finest outdoor recreation opportunities and natural resources in Georgia. Featuring nearly 867,000 acres across 26 counties, thousands of miles of clear-running streams and rivers, approximately 850 miles of recreation trails, and dozens of campgrounds, picnic areas, and other recreation activity opportunities, these lands are rich in natural scenery, history and culture. The mission of the USDA Forest Service is to sustain the health, diversity, and productivity of the nation’s forests and grasslands to meet the needs of present and future generations.