Wildfire Matters Review Committee. The bill allows fire departments, including fire protection districts and volunteer fire departments, to be compensated from state funding sources for wildland fire suppression activities conducted in the fire department's jurisdiction if the fire department relies primarily or solely on volunteer firefighters, the fire exceeds the department's capacity to extinguish or control, and the period of mutual aid has ended. The fire department must use money received to compensate volunteer firefighters in accordance with guidelines adopted by the division of fire prevention and control (division) in the annual wildfire preparedness plan. Boards of county commissioners are authorized to reimburse fire departments from county funds for wildland fire suppression activities conducted within the fire department's jurisdiction in the same circumstances.
The bill amends the existing local firefighter safety and disease prevention fund
grant program (program) to allow grants to be spent to provide access to mental health services for seasonal and volunteer firefights involved in wildland fire suppression in addition to purchasing equipment and providing training. The bill requires (fund) to require the program division to give priority in awarding grants to governing bodies and volunteer fire departments that:
- Have lost tax revenues as a result of decreased assessment values due to a wildland fire within their jurisdiction in the previous 5 years;
- Rely solely or primarily on volunteer firefighters and serve communities affected by wildland fires; or
- Demonstrate the greatest need for additional funding to ensure the safety of volunteer and seasonal firefighters.
In addition, money in the fund may be used to reimburse a multiple employer behavioral health trust (trust) for the direct costs of providing a behavioral health care to firefighters. In fiscal year 2022-23, the reimbursement to a trust is limited to $1 million. In subsequent years, the fire service training, certification, and firefighter safety advisory board makes recommendations on the amount that should be used for this purpose.
The division is also authorized to directly purchase distribute equipment and pay for training for governing bodies and volunteer fire departments without requiring a grant application. The general assembly is required to annually appropriate $5 million to the
program fund and may appropriate additional money as necessary to meet the needs of governing bodies and volunteer fire departments. The division is required to submit an annual report on expenditures from the fund to the wildfire matters review committee or a successor committee. On or before September 1, 2032, the staff of the joint budget committee is required to report on whether the amount of the annual appropriation should be adjusted based on current needs. In addition, the division may use money in the firefighter safety and disease prevention fund to reimburse mental and behavioral health-care specialists for services provided to firefighters who have served as volunteer or seasonal wildland firefighters, in accordance with rules adopted by the division.An entity that employs firefighters, including volunteer firefighters, is required to participate in a trust to provide behavioral health-care services to its firefighters. The division is required to reimburse the trust for its direct costs, and if the available funding is insufficient, the requirement for employers to participate becomes optional. The trust is required to provide a program of basic services to firefighters for the prevention, diagnosis, and initial treatment of emotional, behavioral, or mental health disorders. The services are provided primarily on an outpatient basis, including telephonically or remotely. The trust is authorized to further define the services and benefits available and to adopt policies and procedures for the administration of the trust. The trust is required to report, together with the division, to the wildfire matters review committee on the extent to which the program is meeting the behavioral health-care needs of firefighters, the ongoing funding needs of the trust, and any other changes that are necessary to more effectively meet the behavioral health-care needs of firefighters.
(Note: Italicized words indicate new material added to the original summary; dashes through words indicate deletions from the original summary.)
(Note: This summary applies to the reengrossed version of this bill as introduced in the second house.)