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Firefighter Cancer Benefits Get Final Approval

Tom "Bull" Hill walked from Key West to Tallahassee with the ashes and badges of firefighters who died from cancer.
The Florida Channel
Leon County Judge John Cooper on June 30, 2022, in a screen grab from The Florida Channel.

The House on Wednesday unanimously approved a bill that would expand benefits for firefighters who are diagnosed with 21 types of cancer, sending the high-profile measure to Gov. Ron DeSantis. 

“Today is a monumental day for the fire service in Florida,” said Rep. Matt Willhite, a Wellington Democrat who is a firefighter.

The measure (SB 426), which was approved unanimously by the Senate on Tuesday, requires providing a series of benefits to firefighters diagnosed with the types of cancer. It also would help firefighters pay their bills while undergoing cancer treatment by providing lump-sum payments of $25,000 upon diagnosis.

House bill sponsor Blaise Ingoglia, R-Spring Hill, and Rep. Joe Casello, a Boynton Beach Democrat and longtime firefighter, pointed to firefighters being exposed more often to burning chemicals and plastics than in the past.

Ingoglia said firefighters were more likely decades ago to respond to fires in wooden structures. Jazz Zombo, a Seminole County firefighter and cancer survivor, said the bill would give firefighters peace of mind.

“The last few months that you are alive, you can actually spend time with your family instead of trying to figure out how you are going to afford this, whether your family is going to have a roof over their head and have money to survive on,” Zombo said.