WASHINGTON — Around 800 firefighters are in Washington, D.C., this week to speak to lawmakers about multiple issues, including the development of a fund to assist firefighters diagnosed with cancer.
International Association of Fire Fighters is holding its annual legislative conference in the nation’s capital through Wednesday, in which firefighters will have the opportunity to discuss issues regarding safety and security. U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., addressed the conference Monday morning.
Professional Fire Fighters of West Virginia President Brian Jones, who is also a firefighter in Morgantown, said this year’s focus regards securing funds for researching and prevention cancers affecting firefighters.
“The building material and such that have been used for the past 30 to 40 years are a lot of carcinogenic than previous materials,” he said. “With the carcinogens in all the plastics and such, when they burn they give off a lot of different things that are directly related to certain types of cancer.”
Jones said he knows of multiple firefighters who had to retire early after a cancer diagnosis, including a colleague from Wheeling.
“I believe he would have been on the job until the day he turned 65 had he not contract a type of leukemia that is very inherent to the fire service,” he said. “He’s just one of several throughout the state that we know would fit this category.”
The national body is pushing for the creation of the Firefighters Cancer Registry Act, which would require the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to collect data related to cases of cancer involving firefighters. The House of Representatives has already passed the related bill in September.
“One of my passions is trying to help the needs of our members back home,” Jones said.
Jones said he is hoping to return to Charleston to push for similar legislation in the West Virginia Legislature.