TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — The bill adding fire investigators to the existing firefighter cancer coverage has made another step forward, now in the hands of Gov. DeSantis.
Fire Investigator Cancer Treatment Benefits, Senate Bill 838, would revise the definition of "firefighter" to include full-time, Florida-certified fire investigators to be able to expand eligibility for certain cancer treatments.
If signed by DeSantis, it would go into effect July 1.
“Whether going into a burning building, being exposed to carcinogens that could ultimately lead to cancer, Florida’s firefighters and fire service personnel face tremendous dangers on the job," Florida State Fire Marshal Jimmy Patronis said in a statement.
"Both firefighters and investigators never fail to answer the call and work to protect our homes, businesses and communities at a moment’s notice. It is critical that we provide these men and women the support they need if faced with a life-changing cancer diagnosis."
The fight for firefighter health care benefits related to cancer has been in the works for years now.
Back in 2019, the governor signed a bill that will guarantee health care benefits to firefighters diagnosed with certain types of cancer.
The legislation allows for certain disability payments to firefighters and death benefits to their families if they die as a result of cancer or cancer treatments. The law cuts out the need for firefighters to file workman's comp claims in some instances.
Another layer of protection for Florida's firefighters was added in 2020 when DeSantis signed a bill helping to limit their exposure to cancer-causing chemicals.
Senate Bill 1092, which went into effect July 1 of that year, created a program within the Department of Financial Services to provide financial assistance to qualifying fire departments to help obtain equipment, supplies and educational training to lessen their exposure to those harmful elements.
According to the International Association of Fire Fighters, 75 percent of the firefighters added to the IAFF Fallen Fire Fighter Memorial died from occupational cancer from 2015 to 2020.
Firefighters have a 9 percent higher risk of being diagnosed with cancer and are 14 percent more likely to die from it than the general public, according to The National Institute for Occupational Health and Safety.
The House's favorable passage of the newest bill shows a silver lining in the issue.
"A huge thank you to Chair Ingoglia and the Commerce committee for moving this legislation forward today, and thank you to Senator Wright and Representative Salzman for protecting our first responders, and for their hard work on Senate Bill 838 and House Bill 557," Patronis wrote.