Have to agree with fireronin and mellie, I too did not respond as I had no useful information to offer, I was happy to see the first post from WAFF as I thought it showed there was somebody who was knowledgeable about the problem, I did not respond to the severe injury of the hotshot posts either for much the same reason
DRC, I do wish you and your child well and am sorry for your loss. As far as better treatment for contractors, there are contract firefighting associations out there. Perhaps you might be able to contact them. I doubt there is much that can be done to directly help you at this point but they might be able to put you in touch with people who are trying to change the situation, to prevent this in the future. As Mellie said, California amended their laws to include contractors working for government agencies in the states benefits program. I hope you don’t take the lack of posts as the people here not caring. I’m sure most just didn’t know what to say.
As to the contractor vs “government” firefighters, the employing agency or company bears the responsibility for the bulk of the employees protection. I did a quick search on the National Fallen Firefighters Foundation. For the most part the benefits are moral support groups, plaques and some undisclosed amounts of financial assistance primarily aimed at allowing the families to travel when necessary in relation to participating in the activities mentioned above. The college tuition assistance paid for by the Government has only applied to Federal firefighters since 1998 (and Federal Law Enforcement since 1996) and was basically intended as a recruitment tool. Other benefits only apply to members of the IAFF (which would exclude many federal firefighters), most federal wildland firefighters (except members of the FWFSA I would assume as well as volunteers and contractors).
A quick bit of math leaves me with this: if I were to die my family would get approximately $150,000 from the life insurance (which I pay for although at a lower government rate) plus tuition assistance of $404 per month (roughly $20,000 over a 4 year degree program) and the Forest Service pays an additional amount (2x my yearly salary? so say another $60,000) for a line of duty death and Social Security benefits (which contractors should be entitled to). So this is roughly $210,000 through the Forest Service, $20,000 from the NFFF, and Social Security. As I said above, the bulk of death benefits comes from the employer.
WAFF, if you want to discuss the contractor vs government employee issue at a more appropriate time I’d be glad to discuss that in a constructive fashion, I don’t know all that much about it as I’ve never been on a contract crew but I’d be willing to learn, you obviously have some issues on your mind about that.