Firefighters are susceptible to cancer but lack proper insurance
Every time a firefighter runs into a burning building, they become a magnet for contaminants and carcinogens, without insurance for their loved ones if they eventually develop cancer from the exposure.
“It’s an epidemic that is horrible right now in the fire service,” said Tom “Bull” Hill, Carrying My Brothers Burden organizer and former Orange County firefighter.
A study from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show firefighters are 14 percent more likely to die from cancer than an average person.
It is a statistic that is not lost on Hill.
“The state deems that firemen don’t need any kind of help or protection when they get cancer even though it’s an on-the-job illness,” Hill said. “When you die, your family is left with no insurance.”
Several fire departments in SWFL are equipped with a decontamination kit to help prevent cancer immediately after firefighters respond to calls. But, Florida is one of eight states that does not provide cancer benefits for firefighters, which is why Hill, a retired firefighter from Central Florida, is on a mission to spark change.
Last year, Hill walked over 800 miles as he trekked from Key West to Tallahassee.
“The inspiration was to fulfill a couple promises,” Hill said. “One man before he died said ‘would you please walk the State of Florida so something big will happen?'”
This year, he is taking the journey up the west coast.
“I walk for a Danielle D. Benidento who died at the age of 49 from colon cancer,” said Heather Mazurkiewicz of North Collier Fire. “She was a firefighter with Southtrail and really got the awareness started here in Lee County.”
Dress in full gear, Mazurkiewicz said it is a small sacrifice for something more significant.
“There’s a bill in the Senate and I would like to see that the house side can get it to a committee,” Mazurkiewicz said, “to vote on it and pass it.”