Bill gives benefits to volunteer firefighters with cancer

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo signed a bill Sunday providing benefits for volunteer firefighters diagnosed with certain cancers.

“New York is forever grateful to the 96,000 volunteer firefighters who selflessly put their own personal safety at risk in order to keep their neighbors and communities safe,” Cuomo said in a news release. “With this measure, we will provide these courageous New Yorkers the protections they need and the peace of mind they deserve.”

Beginning Jan. 1, 2019, qualified firefighters diagnosed with cancer will be eligible for a $25,000 lump sum payment, depending on the diagnosis.

To be eligible, firefighters must have served at least five years fighting fires inside structures and have had a physical exam that showed no cancer before he or she began volunteering. They must also be active or within five years of volunteer service.

Career firefighters in New York State already receive benefits similar to those outlined in the legislation, according to Steven Klein, vice president of the Firemen’s Association of the State of New York.

“All firefighters, regardless of whether they are paid or volunteer, fight identical fires. Because of this, all firefighters should be treated equally and receive equal benefits in the event of a cancer diagnosis,” John P. Sroka, president of the New York State Association of Fire Chiefs, said in the release. “Thanks to Gov. Andrew Cuomo and the New York State Legislature, this is now a reality.”

The bill was spurred by studies that show firefighters are contracting cancer after years of fighting fires inside structures where material containing carcinogens is burning.

“Our volunteer fire services are a crucial part of Long Island’s culture and community, and New York owes these brave men and women all the help and support they need,” said state Sen. Elaine Phillips (R-Flower Hill), who was a co-sponsor of the bill.