New bill would protect firefighters with cancer

Legislation would require screening for cancer


There is always a risk of a firefighter not coming back from a blaze, but it's what happens to them after the return from a fire that has lawmakers worried.

Putting out fires is something Kevin Bellucy, of the Tallahassee Fire Department, does every day.

"It's something I do 15 times a day," said Bellucy.

But five years ago, Bellucy received some news that put his career on hold.

"I got a chest X-ray," said Bellucy. "They found some masses in my chest."

Bellucy was diagnosed with Hodgkins lymphoma.

Doctors caught the cancer in time and Bellucy is back to work.

Lawmakers want to make sure all firefighters suffering from the disease are taken care of.

A new bill introduced Wednesday at the state Capitol has been designed to protect firefighters who may eventually have to battle cancer.

Under the bill, new firefighters would undergo a pre-employment cancer screening and all firefighters would be informed within 48 hours if they'd come in contact with a known carcinogen.

"The facts are the facts," said Rep. Frank Artiles (R-Miami). "Firefighters right now are twice as likely to get cancer or be diagnosed with cancer from on-the-job training."

The new proposal would presume that any cancer diagnosis for a firefighter was caused by his or her work in the line of duty.

"Most employers say, 'If you can't come back to work, we have to let you go,'" said Jim Tolley, Florida Professional Firefighters president. "This bill … would correct that."

Firefighters would be eligible to return to work in a light duty capacity instead of being out of a job.

"We risk our lives every day, on and off duty, and we don't mind carrying that burden, but we want to know that our family are going to be taken care of," said Tolley.

There are 33 other states that have similar firefighter protections.