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Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Rob Ortt
ALBANY – A bill passed by the New York State Senate is designed to provide volunteer firefighters in the Empire State with more health benefits as they put their lives on the line for others.

The bill, S3891, amends the Volunteer Firefighters’ Benefit Law to extend levels of protection for volunteer firefighters that develop certain cancer-related diseases while on the job. It was introduced by Republican Michael F. Nozzolio and co-sponsored by state Sen. Rob Ortt, R-North Tonawanda.

Sen. Ortt said, “Volunteer firefighters provide an invaluable service across our state and especially here in Western New York. In the vast majority of my rural district, these selfless men and women are the first responders when emergency strikes. This legislation acknowledges the health risks they face and justly offers them the protections they deserve.”

City Captain of North Tonawanda Vol. Firefighters and Pres. of Sweeney Hose Fire Co. #7 Joe Lavey Jr. said, “There are many times when volunteer firefighters put their lives in danger to keep others safe. There are currently 63 volunteer firefighters in the City of North Tonawanda – that’s 63 men and women who I know would be able to breathe a huge sigh of relief if this bill were to become law. We’re grateful to Senator Ortt for his previous legislation in support of volunteer firefighters across the state.”  

There are more than 100,000 volunteer firefighters statewide that would have presumptive cancer coverage as a result of this legislation. The number of firefighters diagnosed with cancer has increased in recent years, and medical studies have shown that they are at a significantly higher risk for various types of cancer than the general population. Increased cancer risks are linked to the high levels of carcinogens and other toxins from building fires and other hazardous settings where firefighters serve.

The bill is being sent to the Assembly.

This measure for volunteer firefighters is in addition to the $250,000 the State Senate recently secured as part of the enacted 2016-17 State Budget to support the recruitment and retention of volunteer firefighters. The funding will help to address the shortage of volunteer firefighters throughout the state by using promotional tools to highlight the importance of protecting local neighborhoods and enforcing public safety. The money will be used for promotional materials, public service announcements, and other tools in an effort to bolster the number of volunteers.  

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