Federal Eye: BIA fails to reimburse Indian firefighters for boots
"Hundreds of Native American firefighters are locked in a two-year battle with the Bureau of Indian Affairs regarding reimbursements for fire boots required to fight the nation's wildfires.

BIA is the oldest bureau of the Interior Department, providing economic assistance and law enforcement services to about 1.9 million American Indians and Alaska Natives across 55 million acres. Most BIA employees are Native American, as required by federal hiring laws.

The agency employs hundreds of full- and part-time wilderness firefighters who are deployed with other federal agencies to fight blazes nationwide and overseas.

But BIA has failed to respond to a September 2009 federal arbitration ruling that ordered the agency to reimburse firefighters for boots they must purchase as a condition of employment. Some federal firefighting agencies provide at least partial reimbursements, the arbitrator said, citing a previous ruling by the Occupational Safety Health Administration.

Federal requirements for fire-resistant leather firefighter boots that rise above the ankle and last for more than one seven-month fire season range in price from $250 to more than $400 a pair, depending on the brand, according to union officials."

Get the Story:
Federal Eye by Ed O'Keefe: Native American federal firefighters fighting for boot money (The Washington Post 10/5)