Hundreds of the firefighters battling wildfires around the country are Native American (see video above). Among their most important tools are their expensive boots, which can cost as much as $400 a pair.
But as the Washington Post’s Ed O’Keefe reports, those firefighters have been fighting the Bureau of Indian Affairs for more than two years over reimbursements for their boots:
But BIA has failed to respond to a September 2009 federal arbitration ruling that ordered the agency to reimburse firefighters for boots they must purchase as a condition of employment. Some federal firefighting agencies provide at least partial reimbursements, the arbitrator said, citing a previous ruling by the Occupational Safety Health Administration.
Federal requirements for fire-resistant leather firefighter boots that rise above the ankle and last for more than one seven-month fire season range in price from $250 to more than $400 a pair, depending on the brand, according to union officials.
“If you’re going to have First Americans be the first responders on wildfires in California or in Colorado, it seems to me that you ought to provide the fire equipment,” Michael Jennings, executive director of the Federation of Indian Service Employees, tells O’Keefe.