Jimmy Patronis Recognizes January as Firefighter Cancer Awareness Month

This week, state Chief Financial Officer (CFO) and State Fire Marshal Jimmy Patronis issued a proclamation recognizing January as Firefighter Cancer Awareness Month.

The month is an opportunity to highlight the issues faced by Florida firefighters, as well as the need for decontamination gear and firefighter cancer coverage. According to the International Association of Firefighters (IAFF), cancer remains the number one line-of-duty death in the entirety of the fire service.

“Firefighter Cancer Awareness Month serves as a reminder of the very real dangers cancer presents to Florida’s firefighters and fire service personnel. Every day, our firefighters are exposed to harmful carcinogens, and in Florida, it is a top priority that we protect these men and women who risk their own lives to protect others. I am proud that we have had the support of Governor DeSantis and the Florida Legislature in obtaining the best resources to help in the fight against cancer in the firefighter community. Firefighting isn’t just a job, it’s a calling and we must do everything possible to keep these heroes safe as they work to protect us,” Patronis said.

Bernie Bernoska, the president of the Florida Professional Firefighters said, “Florida’s firefighters understand the dangers on the job, whether that is responding to a call or the increased risk of developing cancer, and still place themselves in harm’s way to keep Floridians safe. I am grateful to stand beside a partner like CFO Patronis to continue raising awareness in this fight and make sure our firefighters know they will always have our support.”

The proclamation can be viewed below:

PROCLAMATION

WHEREAS, cancer is the most dangerous under-recognized threat to the health and safety to our firefighters, and occupational cancer is the leading cause of line-of-duty deaths in the fire service, with a direct correlation of chemical exposures on the job; and

WHEREAS, firefighters have a 9% greater chance of being diagnosed with cancer and 14% greater chance of dying from cancer than the general U.S. population; and

WHEREAS, scientific evidence showing a direct correlation between firefighting and certain cancers prompted the 2019 Florida Legislature to enact legislation mandating employer-funded cancer benefits for firefighters and in 2022, the Florida Legislature added fire investigators to those eligible for firefighter cancer coverage; and

WHEREAS, there are over 200 known chemicals and contaminants found in smoke that our firefighters interact with as a routine part of their occupations, which soil their personal protective equipment and everything it comes in contact with, increasing their risk of developing cancer; and

WHEREAS, critical and immediate need for additional protective equipment to help firefighters avoid inhalation and skin exposures to known and suspected occupational carcinogens, lead the Florida Legislature in 2020 to develop the Firefighter Cancer Decontamination Equipment Grant Program to provide financial assistance to help fire departments procure equipment, supplies and educational training; and

WHEREAS, 75% of firefighters recognized on the International Association of Firefighters Memorial Wall in 2022 died from occupational cancer; and

WHEREAS, the noble profession of fire fighting already comes with a myriad of dangerous and life-threatening risks, additional awareness and support for the increased exposure to cancer causing carcinogens is paramount to the safety of those that choose this profession.

NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED that the Chief Financial Officer and State Fire Marshal of the State of Florida does hereby recognize January 2023 as FIREFIGHTER CANCER AWARENESS MONTH to help provide firefighters the necessary tools and guidance to develop life-saving protocols for cancer prevention and to support those with a cancer diagnosis. Brining increased public awareness to the danger firefighters face day-to-day being exposed to cancer causing carcinogens.

IN TESTIMONY WHEREOF the Chief Financial Officer of the State of Florida has hereunto subscribed his name and has caused the Official Seal of the State of Florida to be hereunto affixed in the City of Tallahassee on the 9th day of January 2023.

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