Volunteer Firefighters Fighting More Than Flames: Pushing for Equal Healthcare
Firefighters are being diagnosed with cancer at an alarming rate, but for volunteer firefighters there's even more to worry about... The cost.
Firefighters and volunteer firefighters have the same job: They are on call, they rush into burning buildings, and they put other people's lives ahead of their own. They both are also exposed to toxic chemicals from the burning buildings that in many cases, cause cancer. There is one major difference between the two, though. Paid firefighters have presumptive cancer coverage, volunteer firefighters do not.
That's why "The Cost of Cancer in the Fire Service" campaign has been started by the Firemen's Association of the State of New York. In the video (at the top of this page), three families are featured and they share their personal stories about the volunteer firefighter life, struggles of being diagnosed with cancer, and the cost that comes with it (even after the insurance pays its part). The campaign is hoping to get legislation passed that allows volunteer firefighters to get the same presumptive cancer coverage that paid firefighters get.
One of the families featured (in the video) is the Pagliaro family from Utica. Nicole says Tony (her husband) has been volunteering for 10 years with the Schuyler Volunteer Fire Company. Tony has been diagnosed with cancer three times. They've been traveling to New York City for treatment. Nicole says,
The cost of going to the City and everything that's going on, we obviously have to take it on a day to day basis, because it is a hardship. You have to tell your kids sometimes you can't do stuff when you have bills to pay. And sometimes you can't these bills, because there's not enough money coming in. And when you try to get help, you can't get help.
Such sad words to hear from the wife of a volunteer firefighter who's battling cancer. And she's not the only one. The video also shows a family from New Hartford and another from Troy, and how cancer and the cost has affected their lives.
It's an important issue, that most of us probably have never thought about (or didn't know it was a problem). It's obvious the job of a firefighter is difficult and dangerous, and we know they put their lives on the line to save those in need. But how many people know about the dangerous after-effects from being around all that burning material? That's why this campaign is so important: It brings awareness to a serious issue affecting so many volunteer firefighters all over the state.