Not only do firefighters fight the flames but they also face the risks of getting cancer for doing so.
“My particular medical bill was extremely expensive,” said Donnie West who is the retired Fire Chief of Center Point Fire District.
West is a cancer survivor and was diagnosed with Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma two years ago. He had stage two cancer and went through seven months of chemotherapy.
“Our occupation is a dangerous occupation and we’re exposed to all kinds of elements and byproducts,” West explained. “There’s a lot of byproducts in those that we breathe. Even though we have protective gear, we’re still exposed.”
Firefighters have a 9 percent higher risk of being diagnosed with cancer and a 14 percent higher risk of dying from cancer than the general U.S. population, according to the National institute for Occupational Safety and Health.
A new Alabama law will require fire departments to provide firefighters who have worked 12 consecutive months and were diagnosed with cancer supplemental insurance to help pay for treatment.
West said the law would not help him since he has already retired. However, there are around 7,000 career firefighters that would be provided supplemental coverage, according to the fiscal note.
The maximum amount a firefighter could receive as supplemental insurance can’t exceed $50,000.
The bill goes into effect Jan. 1, 2020.