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Missouri lawmakers show bi-partisan support for firefighters who get cancer

ST. LOUIS - Firefighters suffering from job-related illnesses are closer to getting the protection they need.

Missouri Governor Eric Greitens held a news conference Wednesday at the St. Louis Fire Academy as part of a bi-partisan show of support for firefighters.

“Firefighters fight fires and if, God forbid, they have to fight cancer, they shouldn't have to fight bureaucrats to get the care they deserve,” Greitens said.

This past year, four St. Louis firefighters lost their lives to cancer. There is a proven scientific link between fighting fires and cancer rates. Stats show 60 percent of firefighters will get cancer and help is limited.

“The problem with cancer, you get put on medical leave and they end up never coming back to work,” said St. Louis Fire Chief Dennis Jenkerson. “Families are effected tremendously.”

Missouri State Representative Nick Schrorer is handling the House bill, State Senator Jacob Hummel is handling matters on his side of the legislature. Both said something had to be done to help these families and widows.

“We took care of our husbands for years through cancer and during the process we found out once you have a cancer diagnosis as a fireman, you're dropped like a hot potato,” said a widow at the event. “There's not financial support for us.”

The IAFF and its president, Harold Schaitberger, have been working across the nation to implement presumptive coverage for occupational diseases under workers compensation law for first responders.

“When I started fighting fires it was wood, wool natural materials, now it’s all man-made materials and we’re getting cancer at rates off the charts,” Jenkerson said.