Lee County firefighters push for cancer presumption bill

FORT MYERS, Fla. — Firefighters risk their lives while on duty, but many of their battles continue off the job as well.

Giovanni Zamora, a Bonita Springs Fire Department paramedic, has beaten cancer twice, even though there’s no history of the disease in his family.

“Whenever we have a call, the last thing we think about is ourselves,” he said.

Cancer is the leading cause of death among firefighters, according to the International Association of Firefighters.

“On average, a firefighter is being exposed to 16 to 32 different hazardous materials chemicals inside a residential home,” said Bayshore Fire Rescue Chief Larry Nisbet.

Florida House Representative Heather Fitzenhagen filed a cancer presumption bill for firefighters earlier this month.

The current presumption is if a firefighter is diagnosed with cancer, the firefighter has to prove the cancer was contracted on the job, according to Heather Mazurkiewicz, founder of the Florida Cancer Presumption Coalition.

However, if the bill passes, insurance companies would be held responsible. Firefighters would also receive some health benefits and workers compensation.

“If this cancer bill can help out anybody else financially and alleviate that stress, that will just make me feel good,” Zamora said.

At least 33 other states currently have cancer presumption laws in place.