Governor Tom Corbett has signed a bill into law that provides compensation to Pennsylvania firefighters who contract cancer. While the health implications are important, there is an economic side as well.
State Rep. Frank Farry of Bucks County is also chief of the Langhorne-Middletown Fire Company–one of more 2,000 volunteer fire companies in Pennsylvania.
He sponsored the new law that makes it easier for firefighters–both volunteers and career personnel–to receive workers’ compensation if they contract cancer.
“Firefighters have significant levels of exposure to carcinogens throughout their service to our communities,” he said.
Previously, it was hard for firefighters to prove a link between a cancer and their work. Farry said that has discouraged new volunteers at a time when their ranks have dropped by 50 percent.
Pennsylvania State Fire Commissioner Ed Mann said he is hopeful the law will reverse this trend.
“Anything we can do, that would use legislation that passes as a possible tool to help recruit and retain volunteers, it’s a positive,” said Mann.
Farry, who said Pennsylvania’s reliance on volunteer fire companies is not just nostalgic, said he thinks it’s “important for the state to do is to provide every incentive possible to maintain the dying breed of the volunteer fire service.
“From a financial standpoint, it’s actually saving the taxpayers of the commonwealth hundreds and hundreds of millions, if not billions, of dollars annually in terms of property taxes,” said Farry.