Ben Elkind was seriously injured during a training parachute jump on May 15. During his ninth year as a smoke jumper (six years earlier on the Hochcot crew) he dislocated his hip and fractured his pelvis during a hard landing. During surgery at the hospital they found six fractures and placed three plates and 10 screws to repair the damage.
While Ben is unable to fight fires for an extended period of time, he will not be able to supplement his basic income with the usual 1,000-hour overtime each year that he relied on in the past to support his wife and two young children.
And then, during a full-body CT scan, a node was discovered in the thyroid gland – this means cancer. Ben told Wildfire Today that the cancer is caught early and is highly treatable.
We’ve written about Ben previously, but that was before we even knew about cancer. The other reason we’re bringing it up now is because yesterday NBC News published a nearly four-minute video story about Ben and other similar examples of injured prairie firefighters.
For over the past year, Ben has been heavily involved in working to improve working conditions for federal firefighters in the prairie, being proactive in educating the public and other firefighters about what they can do to improve wages, ratings, health and welfare, and address workers compensation claims. (see picture below). In 2021 he wrote an article that was published in Oregonian and Wildfire today. And now he finds himself as one of the examples of what can happen at work to a firefighter in the wilderness that can seriously affect them and their family.
Some progress has been made over the past year in putting together a list of presumed diseases for firefighters.
The pending legislation would create the assumption that firefighters who became disabled due to some serious illness contracted them on the job, including heart disease, lung disease, certain types of cancer, and other infectious diseases. The federal bipartisan Equity Act, HR 2499, passed the House in May and is now in the Senate.
In April, the Office of Workers’ Compensation Programs (OWCP), in FECA Bulletin 22-07, created a list of cancers and medical conditions for which a firefighter does not have to provide proof that their illness was caused by someone on the job. infection.
Consider telling senators and your representative to pass the Tim Hart Wildland Firefighter Classification and Pay Act, HR5631. The bill’s name honors smoker Tim Hart, who died after being injured in a fire in New Mexico in 2021. (More on the bill.) Ask senators to pass the Federal Justice for Firefighters Act, HR 2499.
You may wish to make a donation to the gofundme account set up by the Redmond Smokejumper Welfare Organization to help Ben and his family.