By New York State Senator Joseph A. Griffo, R-Rome, 47th District
Today’s structure fires are more dangerous and toxic than ever before, with everyday plastics, household items and electronic devices made of synthetic materials that give off harmful smoke and fumes as they burn.
These chemicals are known to cause all different forms of cancer to those who are exposed, including the firefighters who can breathe in these fumes whenever they battle a blaze. But as this threat worsens, any volunteer firefighters who are diagnosed with these duty-related cancers have never been given the medical coverage they deserve. Full-time firefighters are covered by these benefits, yet our volunteers are left to essentially fend for themselves.
That is sad, but fortunately it may be about to change.
For the past three years, I have fought in the New York State Senate to expand insurance coverage for volunteer firefighters across our state who are diagnosed with certain cancers known to be linked to their public service. While the Senate has passed my bill each year, the Assembly has failed to act and the legislation has stalled.
But as this year’s legislative session wrapped up recently, I am proud to report that the Assembly has finally joined us in standing up for all of the brave men and women of the volunteer fire service who risk their lives every day to protect our homes and families. This legislation, if signed into law, would create the New York State Volunteer Firefighter Gap Coverage Cancer Disability Benefits Act.
According to my bill, a volunteer firefighter will be eligible for enhanced cancer disability benefits if the volunteer has served for at least five years as an interior firefighter, and has successfully passed a physical examination upon entering the volunteer service that initially did not show any signs of cancer.