Firefighters say they need to protect their own, push for cancer bill

News13 Digital First

PAWLEYS ISLAND, SC (WBTW) – A local fire department is fighting for a bill that would offer protections for firefighters with cancer.

Midway Fire Rescue is holding a town hall meeting Wednesday to spread awareness of the Presumptive Firefighter Cancer Bill.

“We’re trying to make (people) aware and have people call their legislatures and tell them to support this bill,” President of Midway Professional Firefighters Association Justin Lenker said. “We’re one of the last states in North America that doesn’t have cancer presumption.”

News13 first reported about this bill when it was introduced earlier this year. It’s made to designate certain cancers as line-of-duty diseases, entitling sick first responders to workers’ compensation.

Midway fire is hoping it passes next year.

“We want to make headway now,” Lenker said. “So when they’re back in session, we’re ready to rock and roll”

The issue strikes close to home for the firefighters at Midway.

The department lost Battalion Chief Josh Carney to cancer in 2017. Lenker said the department has had two more diagnoses within the last year.

The National Institute for Occupational Therapy says firefighters face a 14 percent higher chance of dying of cancer than the general public.

Midway fire is testing new turnout gear to try and curb that risk. But even with the latest technology, they say it’s important to prepare for the worst.

“It’s not going to go away,” Lenker said, referring to the risk of developing cancer. “It’s not going to go away. It’s not going to eliminate it. But we need to protect our firemen.”

Midway fire’s town hall meeting is happening at 6 p.m. Wednesday at the Holy Cross Faith Memorial Episcopal Church.

The Presumptive Firefighter Cancer Bill remains in the House Judiciary Committee.

Count on News13 for updates.

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