GOLDEN, Colo. — State employees in Colorado will now be able to receive paid administrative leave to respond to a fire as a volunteer firefighter or first responder.
Gov. Jared Polis signed the executive order authorizing all state agencies and departments to provide up to five days of additional paid leave for these state employees on Wednesday morning.
The decision came after Polis recently met with fire officials in Eads and volunteer firefighters in Rico and other parts of the state to talk about their needs. Some discussion surrounded equipment and fire stations, but one problem Russ Watson with the Kiowa County Fire Protection District and others brought up was the amount of state employees they have living in their areas who are or want to be volunteer firefighters having a hard time volunteering because of the unpaid time off from their day jobs.
“I said ‘You know what, Russ? I think we can fix that one,'” Polis said during the press conference.
Within two weeks, the Polis administration crafted the policy signed on Wednesday. All 31,000 state employees will now have the option to serve as a volunteer firefighter, paramedic, emergency medical technician or search and rescue team member with the benefit of the paid leave. As many as 70% of Colorado’s firefighters are volunteers, according to the executive order.
“The men and women who do volunteer firefighting don’t do it to get compensated — they’re volunteers. But they shouldn’t be financially penalized for serving as volunteer firefighters. When they step up, dedicate their time, put themselves in harm’s way to protect our communities, they need to know that their employer — in this case, the state of Colorado — has their back.”
Alan Fletcher, the Fairmount Fire Protection chief, said he believes this new policy will help departments across the state.
“I think this is really the beginning of something that should be able to take on and give us additional tools that volunteers across the state of Colorado could use to help with our retention, to help with their ability to maybe sign up and volunteer, knowing that they can actually get some time off,” Fletcher said.
Polis also urged private companies to consider implementing similar policies.
Watch the full press conference in the video player below: