By Blakely Gull
Utah firefighters hosted the annual Fire Caucus where they discussed ongoing concerns in their communities and thanked legislators for their support.
“It gives us a way to have a dialogue with legislators and senators,” said Murray Fire Chief Gil Rodriguez, Chairman of the Joint Council of Fire Service. “They let us talk and we hear what they need from us.”
As fire personnel talked fires and safety to legislators, four firemen’s wives helped behind the scenes.
Heather George, who is married to Salt Lake City’s Battalion Chief, has helped decorate for the event for a number of years. “We really come out to support the legislation on the Hill,” she said, “the things that affect our husband’s jobs—safety issues like sprinkling systems, smoke detectors—various things that need to be changed to help firefighters and, basically, citizens.”
George, and several others married to firefighters, addressed the fears they have whenever their spouse is on duty. “Being married to a firefighter you never know what’s going to happen,” she said. “They might be cleaning or doing a safety check or helping with a big fire.”
Besides fire safety the firemen’s wives said that they enjoyed seeing their husbands get involved in politics.
“I kind of enjoy learning, and knowing they’re getting involved,” said Julie Hoffman, whose husband is also a fire chief in Salt Lake City. “They set it up so each firefighter can talk with a legislator from their area . . . It’s nice knowing they can get in touch with their local representative.”
Along with talking to their local representative, the firemen treat the caucus as a way to thank legislators for current legislation. The Senate has already passed SB22, which forces schools to have better fire detectors, and SB65, which calls for fallen public safety officer’s children to receive in-state tuition. While the House has passed HB29, which makes changes regarding liquefied petroleum gas, and HB133, which changes the retirement requirements for firefighters. Each is now awaiting action from the other legislative chamber.
Additional legislation discussed included Medicaid reimbursements, specifically ambulance transportation fees. “Right now there is a fixed amount of $140 for ambulance transport reimbursement,” said Rodriguez. “We are trying to get that amount up a little more.” Rodriguez said the bill will be sponsored by Senator Bramble, R-Provo, who is Senior Chair of the Joint Council of Fire Services, and sponsored two of the four bills mentioned earlier—SB22 and SB65.
“The most important thing we do is fire service, “ said Rodriguez. “This caucus gives us an open dialogue with legislators and makes sure we are all on the same page.”
The goal of the luncheon is not to ask for favors from the government, said Rodriguez, but to educate, inform and answer questions for the legislators regarding what the firefighters of Utah need. “At the end of the day we take a big sigh of relief and hope we made a positive impact,” he said.