Firefighters: They can haul up a mountain with 80 pounds on their backs. They run into burning buildings while the rest of us run out in terror. They protect our homes, our forests, our communities and our families. They embody the core values of Montanans.

So who doesn’t love firefighters? Well, apparently, some folks, like Jeremy Trebas, a representative out of Great Falls.

Trebas Great Falls

Rep. Jeremy Trebas

 

Firefighters inhale a lot of dangerous smoke, chemicals and particles — and when they get sick, we need to take care of them. But Montana is one of the few states that forces firefighters with certain serious illnesses to prove they developed them on the job before they can get compensation. Almost every other state presumes that certain illnesses in former firefighters came from the toxins they inhaled while fighting fires.

That doesn’t sound like something we want to be known for!  So, Senator Pat Connell, a Republican from the Bitterroot and a retired firefighter and logger, set out to fix that by introducing a bill that would change how we compensate our sick firefighters.

Pat Connel Jeremy Trebas

Senator Pat Connell

This bill got all kinds of support across the state from our first responders, and it got the thumbs-up from both Democrats and Republicans in the Legislature.  And why not? Simply put, this would take care of our volunteer and professional firefighters who get sick doing their job and protecting us.

Why would anyone be against taking care of our everyday heroes? Seems like the responsible thing to do.

But the bill got shot down. And Great Falls Rep. Jeremy Trebas was one of those who voted against our firefighters. That vote came after he posted his support for the firefighters of his town on their Facebook page. So then why did he turn around and vote against the bill!?


Trebas received a flurry of warranted backlash for his vote. And in response, he weakly stated that he originally “thought this was a simpler issue than it really is.” What does that mean?

Well, Rep. Trebas, protecting our fellow hard-working Montanans isn’t always simple! But it’s the right thing to do. And it is our responsibility as Montanas to look after those that have stepped up time and time again to protect us.

Imagine if our firefighters dodged their responsibility to protect their communities the way that Trebas dodged his responsibility to protect our firefighters.

We need to hold Trebas’ feet to the fire on this one.

Jeremy Trebas Great Falls firefighters healthcare

Photo by Kaitlin Bergez–wildland firefighter.

 

April 5, 2017 Update:

Check out this video of Rep. Trebas meeting with Great Falls Firefighters. It’s worth the watch.

Trebas starts off the meeting by saying that he knows “that everyone is pretty disappointed in how that bill went.” That’s an understatement, if we’ve ever heard one.

He then continues on for 15 minutes with all sorts of facts and numbers from outdated studies in order to explain himself. But our firefighters saw right through him. They called him out on his outdated studies. They called him out on his irrelevant facts about prostate cancer and lymphoma, when this bill would’ve only been about lung diseases. They called him out on his misuse of examples from other cities and other counties.

Our firefighters have been asking for a bill like this for far too long. And now, as Trebas gets lost in the smoke of facts and figures, our first responders still have to wait for the coverage they deserve.

Editor’s Note: Featured Photo by James Yates

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