As the legislative session nears its end, firefighters in Frederick County are still working on the passage of HB595, a bill that would add certain cancers to be considered when determining benefits for firefighters.

Data shows that firefighters are at a higher risk of cancer, specifically kidney and renal cancers, due to flame-retardant chemicals and firefighting foam that has been used for many years. Also at issue is the fact that the contents in homes are no longer natural materials but rather filled with plastics, synthetics and chemicals. HB595 expands the current cancer presumption law for both career and volunteer firefighters and adds these cancers to the list of covered cancers.

While in Annapolis lobbying for Frederick County, we have not heard of County Executive Jan Gardner’s support on this measure although the legislation had overwhelming support to pass through the House of Delegates. Most legislators see that this legislation provides protections to both career and volunteer firefighters that risk their lives on a daily basis.

Unfortunately, this bill is at risk of being killed in the Senate. The opposition is led by the Maryland Association of Counties (MACo) and County Executive Gardner serves on their Executive Committee. In testimony, MACo stated this could “be very expensive and result in enhanced death benefits.” We reject that we are nothing more than a price tag. Firefighters dedicate their lives to the safety of Frederick County. We owe them care when they receive the worst diagnosis of their life. This is very personal for us. We have had nine members diagnosed with this horrible disease and in 2013, lost firefighter Kevin Jenkins to liver cancer.

We ask that County Executive Gardner supports her career and volunteer firefighters and this legislation’s passage in the Senate. We urge you to contact County Executive Jan Gardner, and Sens. Michael Hough and Ron Young and express your support for HB595.

Stephen Jones

President

Career Fire Fighters

Association of Frederick County, IAFF Local 3666

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