Florida firefighters are covered by a limited presumption if they are diagnosed with cancer, but some fire departments still need special cleaning systems to remove carcinogens from gear.
To help with that, Florida’s chief financial officer and fire marshal announced $50,000 in grants for three south Florida fire departments for the purchase of decontamination equipment.
“Firefighters have a 9% higher risk of being diagnosed with cancer and a 14% higher risk of dying from cancer than the average American,” CFO Jimmy Patronis said at a news conference Tuesday.
The grant money is the result of legislation passed in Florida in 2021, known as the Cancer Decontamination Grant Program. The latest grants will be spread between West Palm Beach Fire Department, with $20,100; $24,750 to Marathon Fire Rescue; and $5,700 to Coral Springs Parkland Fire Department.
“We have seen cancer tear holes in the firefighting community for far too long,” West Palm Division Fire Chief Jamie Walker said in a news release. Thanks to the grant program, “we will have the proper tools to do all that we can to limit the dangers of these toxins that we are exposed to and ensure that our fire firefighters are able to live long, healthy lives.”
Patronis’ Department of Financial Services website notes that $500,000 in funding is available. The grants require a 25% match in non-state funding from the local fire department, and must be used for personal protection equipment extractor units. The amount of funding distributed so far was not available, nor was the number of fire departments that still need the equipment. Patronis announced $132,000 in funding in May 2022 for fire stations in the Tampa Bay area, according to local news reports.
Florida lawmakers in 2019 approved a type of presumption that provides $25,000 upon a firefighters’ diagnosis of any of 21 cancers, and requires municipal employers to provide enhanced group health, retirement and death benefits.
The law was criticized for not going far enough, for being set up outside the workers’ compensation system, and for not creating a dispute resolution mechanism.
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