Governor Charlie Baker signed a law this week allowing paid leave for firefighters while battling cancer caused by the job.
While the frequency of fires is down, some of today’s building materials are hazardous, especially when they burn.
“It’s a dangerous job regardless, and now an added danger is the carcinogens that long after the fire is out we bring back to the station with us, And we certainly don’t want to take them back to our families,” said Captain Edward McCandlish of the East Longmeadow Fire Department.
East Longmeadow recently bought an extractor, that helps to wash out and remove debris and carcinogens from firefighter’s gear when they return from a fire. A grant paid for a special air drier, that gets gear ready for use after the special wash in just four hours.
Their vehicles now have a special exhaust that helps filter diesel exhaust in the station as well.
Under the Baker bill, certain cancers are now considered a condition sustained in the line of duty for firefighters. It allows for leave with full pay while they fight the disease.
One East Longmeadow Fire Department member is currently fighting the disease, and another firefighter lost his dad, a fellow firefighter over a decade ago.
“We lost a deputy chief. He served 30 plus years in the department to cancer. My father who served 20 years on the department as a Lieutenant, died of cancer as well in 2007. Big or small, no one is immune to cancer,” said EMS Coordinator Michael Minahan of East Longmeadow Fire Department.
The International Association of Firefighters and the Professional Firefighters of Massachusetts have been fighting for this type of legislation for years.