To the editor,

I am a volunteer firefighter in my community and have been for 12 years. Did you know that a majority of our suburban communities are protected by volunteer firefighters? In New York State, there are an estimated 100,000 volunteer firefighters. These people are your neighbors, friends, family and fellow citizens. They go through many hours of training and dedicate their precious time for the greater good. 

According to studies, the cancer rates for firefighters is much higher than the general public. Firefighters have double the chance of being diagnosed with cancer then the average person. This topic hits home for me especially. After years of service in the volunteer fire department, I was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma in my early 20s. I spent a year going through exhaustive treatments including chemotherapy and radiation, all while continuing to serve at my local firehouse.

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I want to bring to light a growing injustice happening right now in Albany. Recent legislation in the state called the “Volunteer Firefighter Presumptive Cancer Bill” passed both the New York State House and Senate. This bill would add the most common fire-service related cancers to the Volunteer Firefighter’s Benefit Law (VFBL).  In essence, the bill would add certain types of cancers to the list of medical conditions covered by workers compensation. There is already a system in place; let’s expand it to accommodate our changing world and the dangers our volunteer firefighters face. 

This bill protecting our community firefighters has passed both legislatures in New York State but has yet to be signed by Governor Cuomo. Why hasn’t the governor signed this important and common-sense bill to protect our local volunteers? We are lucky to have our local lawmakers in Albany, like Assemblyman Kevin Byrne, support this bill and fight to protect our emergency responders. Now we need the governor to do what is right and sign this bill. Please show your support!

Jon Mackey