SPARTANBURG, SC (WSPA) – South Carolina firefighters are breathing a sigh of relief after legislators approved a cancer benefit bill.
Firefighters wear gear which protects them on the outside but now the South Carolina legislature passed a bill that would protect them if they’re diagnosed with cancer.
The Firefighter Cancer Healthcare Benefit Plan is finally official and a welcome benefit for firefighters and especially the men at the Hilltop Fire District.
“I’m glad that their finally doing something and hopefully they’ll look forward into improving it as years go on. this is a start, I think it’s a good start,” said Hilltop Fire District Assistant Fire Chief Claude Rowe.
The bill gives supplemental insurance to volunteer and career firefighters, but only kicks in after five years of continuous service.
“Anything can happen in five years. day one of your career you get to a house fire you get diagnosed two years down the road with cancer, but you ain’t got five years in,” said firefighter Austin Tate.
Firefighters are exposed to a variety elements while on the job and that puts them at higher risk of respiratory, oral, kidney and even prostate cancers.
“We do yearly physicals every year, those yearly physicals do include chest x-rays…. we do blood work as well so… if we see something then we can go to the doctor and see what’s further that we need,” said firefighter Terry Stewart.
The cancer bill also provides $20,000 to the patient when cancer is diagnosed and a $12,000 annual medical expense reimbursement benefit.
“$20,000 – yeah, that’s gonna help when you’re out for six weeks because of treatment and the $12,000, for some guys that’s half of their pay,” said Dakata Brooks with the Whitney Fire Department.
For firefighters who have already left the business or retired, they are covered within ten years of the last day of active service.
“There’s a lot of other people we need to look out for, we do have younger people starting in the fire service, could be a two, three year veteran, they get cancer, they might not get that benefit,” said Rowe.
This bill also makes a firefighter’s death as a result of cancer a line of duty death in South Carolina.
South Carolina is one of the last states to approve a bill of this magnitude.
It will help more than 17,000 firefighters across the state.