Local lawmakers, fire officials encourage Cuomo to sign firefighter cancer coverage bill

Three local lawmakers are rallying together with state fire officials and local volunteer firefighters to encourage Gov. Andrew Cuomo to sign legislation that would improve cancer coverage for volunteer firefighters.

Assemblyman Anthony Brindisi of Utica, Assemblyman William Magee of Nelson and state Sen. David Valesky of Oneida met with members of the Firemen’s Association of the State of New York (FASNY), the state Association of Fire Chiefs, and local firefighters at the Chittenango Fire Department on Thursday.

In June, both the state Senate and Assembly passed a bill that would provide presumptive cancer coverage for volunteer firefighters throughout the state, but Cuomo has not yet signed the legislation. Brindisi was a co-sponsor of the bill in the Assembly, and the bill was sponsored in the Senate by Sen. Joseph Griffo of Rome.

Under the new bill, volunteer firefighters would be eligible for enhanced cancer disability benefits if they have served as an interior firefighter for at least five years, and they passed a physical exam when they entered the fire service that didn’t show any signs of cancer. The benefits would be covered through an insurance policy paid for by the municipality that the volunteer firefighter serves.

“Firefighting clearly leads to an increased likelihood of cancer, and it is imperative that we protect all our volunteer firefighters in the event they receive this diagnosis,” Brindisi said in a news release. “No one who volunteers, day in and day out to serve and protect their community should be denied coverage for a condition that is the clear result of their occupation. During my efforts over the past several years, I commonly heard compelling stories from supporters of the bill of firefighters who survived cancer—but without the coverage for it they deserve. Signing this bill would right that wrong.”

“Today’s fires are far more toxic than ever before,” said Chittenango Fire Chief Jeff Geer. “Modern homes are filled with an array of synthetic materials like polyester and polyurethane, plastics and electronics that burn faster, hotter and produce a significant amount of carcinogens. Due to this, today’s firefighters are more likely to develop cancer than their predecessors.”