Bills aimed to help Virginia fire fighters battling cancer put on back burner

RICHMOND, Va. - Virginia Firefighters are dealing with defeat in Richmond.

"This proves that some of these elected officials will stand next to us when it benefits them but will not stand behind us when we need it," said Kurt Detrick, President of the Portsmouth Professional Firefighters & Paramedics Association, Local 539.

Two Senate Bills and a House Bill designed to help fire fighters battling cancer failed to make it out of the committee. According to representatives with the International Association of Fire Fighters (IAFF), all three of bills would have fixed an issue with the Worker's Compensation Law. Representatives say the law currently denies some fire fighters with cancer from getting the help they need. The bills would also expand the types of cancer covered under that law.

Currently, Leukemia, pancreatic, prostate, rectal, throat, ovarian and breast cancer are covered cancers under workers’ compensation. The goal of SB352 and SB642 was to add colon, brain and testicular to the list of covered cancers. According to Detrick, firefighters are frequently diagnosed with these cancers.

"You cant argue with these facts anymore. These chemicals that we find in fire smoke are type 1 known carcinogens it's proven time and time again that they cause cancer," explained Detrick. "It's very very disheartening that these legislatures care more about the opinions of the workers compensation laws and the donors than the first responders that are on the street everyday protecting their neighborhoods."

IAFF says they plan to bring up all three bills again in 2019, but they need the community's support.

"Please contact your state delegate and senators and tell them to stand with our fire fighters and support these bills," said Detrick.