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New S.C. law will give some financial support to firefighters battling cancer

South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster speaks at an event where he signed a bill to financially...
South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster speaks at an event where he signed a bill to financially help firefighters facing cancer,(WRDW)
Published: Oct. 15, 2020 at 7:40 AM EDT
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COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) - On Wednesday morning, Tracy Williams, the assistant fire chief for the Westview-Fairforest Fire Department in Spartanburg County, joined other firefighters from across the state at the South Carolina State Fire Academy for a ceremonial bill signing for a law that will support firefighters in the state diagnosed with cancer.

“There’s a lot of things that go through your mind when you’re diagnosed with cancer,” Wiliams said.

He knows about this firsthand. He was diagnosed with cancer in 2009.

Eleven years later, he stood next to Gov. Henry McMaster as he signed the Firefighter Cancer Healthcare Benefit Plan. Williams said Wednesday was a special day.

“This is one more indication of the respect and understanding that our people of South Carolina have expressed through our elected representatives. Understanding the importance and critical, vital role that you play,” McMaster told a group of firefighters.

If a firefighter is diagnosed with one of several types of cancer listed in the law, the state will provide a one-time payment of $20,000 upon diagnosis and $12,000 a year to help cover out-of-pocket medical expenses. The types of cancers listed in the bill include:

  • Central and peripheral nervous system
  • Oropharyngeal
  • Respiratory tract
  • Gastrointestinal tract
  • Hepatobiliary
  • Solid organ and endocrine
  • Genitourinary and male reproductive
  • GYN
  • Skin, soft tissue and breast
  • Bone and blood

If a firefighter dies from cancer, their family would receive $75,000.

Jonathan Calore with the South Carolina Forestry Commission said this will help their workers as well.

“It’s nice to know they have our backs. They are looking out for us to provide for our families if something were to happen to us in the line of duty,” Calore said.

Williams said this will be a big boost for families going through a difficult time.

“Once the bill gets funded and it goes into effect this tells firefighters they are going to be taken care of,” he said.

McMaster’s office posted a photo of him signing the bill on Sept. 29 on his Facebook page. In that post, McMaster said he was proud to sign the bill to give state firefighters “enhanced healthcare coverage.”

“These men and women sacrifice to be there for us in our most difficult moments, and we must do all that we can to be there for them in theirs,” the post stated.

Midway Fire Chief Doug Eggiman said at the time of the signing that cancer is the leading cause of death for firefighters and that his agency spent years advocating for the bill.

As far as the next steps are concerned, officials said they are going to continue to educate current and new firefighters about ways to prevent occupational cancer while protecting their communities.

The new law goes into effect in July 2021.

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