Courtney: Death benefits should be extended to fire police

Congressman Joe Courtney said he introduced a bill Monday to extend public safety officer death benefits to fire police.

Fire police are designated members of a fire department who mainly control traffic around a fire scene and help set up equipment. Because they are not directly involved in fire suppression, the U.S. Department of Justice has said they are not eligible for the federal Public Safety Officer's Benefit program, which provides a one-time payment of about $300,000 to survivors of public safety officers killed in the line of duty.

Nationwide, 68 members of the fire police died in the line of duty over the last 20 years, Courtney, D-2nd District, said.

Courtney was joined by firefighters, fire police and other first responders at the Gales Ferry Fire Department for the announcement Monday morning. Gales Ferry Fire Chief Tony Saccone, whose department includes seven fire policemen, brought the issue to Courtney's attention.

Saccone said fire policemen set up perimeters and a few years ago one of the Gales Ferry members had to jump over a guardrail to avoid getting hit by a car.

"They are in the thick of things," he said. "They may not be fighting the fire but they're keeping the firefighters and the public safe."

A similar bill did not move forward in 2011. But Courtney said this new bill may fare better because it has bipartisan support, no additional funding is needed, and U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., plans to introduce a companion bill in the Senate.


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