Firefighters and politicians celebrate new law during Firefighter Cancer Awareness Month
As part of Firefighter Cancer Awareness Month, fire departments who have lost firefighters to the disease are celebrating legislation that provides major benefits.
Firefighters and politicians gathered at the Norwalk Fire Department's headquarters on Friday to highlight a law that improves access to workers' compensation benefits for firefighters who develop cancer.
The law says firefighters no longer have to prove their diagnosis was caused by their job.
Cancer is the leading cause of line-of-duty deaths for firefighters.
A second law recently kicked in, requiring each municipality to contribute $10 to the state's cancer relief for each of their firefighters.
"Yes, we know this might cost a little bit of money upfront, but at the end of the day, it prevents your firefighters from having to use the legislation coverage that we lobbied for. That is the ultimate goal," says Caitlin Clarkson Pereira, a Fairfield firefighter.
Union leaders tells News 12 there have been at least 12 applications for the cancer relief fund, but none have been accepted yet.
"We're working our way through the process, navigating some of the hurdles that come with a new legislation, but we're very confident that at the end of the day, all of those firefighters are going to receive access to these critical benefits," says Peter Brown, president of UPFFA of Connecticut.
The Norwalk Fire Department has lost three firefighters to cancer over the last two years.