HAUPPAUGE - Long Island volunteer firefighters who put their lives on the line to battle fires are now fighting to get the same level of insurance coverage as their paid counterparts.
Fire officials say the business of fighting fires has become more dangerous in recent years due to the synthetic materials used in buildings and furniture. They say the men and women who battle fires are being exposed to more cancer-causing substances than ever before.
New York’s paid firefighters have cancer coverage, but volunteers are currently only covered for lung cancer. Firefighters across the Island and the state have been pushing for a bill that would add coverage for many kinds of cancer and melanoma to the list of benefits for volunteers.
"Volunteer firefighters are the crux of our first responder base. The governor says it, the president says it, everybody says it. Why wouldn't we want to take care of them?" says Donald Corkery, of the New York State Association of Fire Chiefs.
A bill that would enhance coverage has passed the state Senate twice, but has stalled in the Assembly.
"We believe that this is something that the volunteer firefighters need, the volunteer firefighters should have," says Robert McConville, of the Firemen's Association of the State of New York. "We are certainly going to keep up this battle until we get it passed."
A statement from Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie's office reads, "Volunteer firefighters are critically important to ensuring the safety of communities and we want to ensure they are treated fairly. We are closely reviewing this bill."