PAWLEYS ISLAND, S.C. (WMBF) - Grand Strand firefighters are reaching out to the community, and asking for help to pass a bill that will protect them and their families.
Studies show that firefighters have a higher risk of being diagnosed with cancer, all because of what they do to keep others safe. This disease is the leading cause of firefighter line-of-duty deaths.
In 2017, Midway Fire Rescue lost one of their own. Battalion Chief Josh Carney lost his battle with cancer, after serving more than 25 years as a firefighter.
“On October 26, 2017, at his funeral, I was handed his folded American flag. My daughter was handed his helmet. That was a moment in time for me that I did not want to see any other Midway Fire Department wife or anywhere have to go through,” said Carney’s wife, Lillian.
Lillian started an organization to honor his legacy called Carney Strong, which aims to raise awareness surrounding the disease.
On Wednesday night, she stood in the place where her husband’s casket once stood inside of the Pawley’s Island Church to spread awareness about the health dangers that firefighters face on a daily basis and what the community can do to help.
Currently, South Carolina is one of two states that does not offer any help to firefighters diagnosed with cancer, leaving families, like the Carneys, with thousands and thousands of dollars in medical bills.
The Firefighter Cancer Presumption Bill was first introduced earlier this year as a workman’s comp bill.
Now, it’s being changed to a health care bill and will designate certain cancers as line-of-duty diseases, providing financial and other means of support to those diagnosed.
“For every 3 firefighters, 2 will get cancer in their career time at some point. So it’s a drastic number,” said Justin Lenker, the president of the Midway Professional Firefighters Association.
Midway Fire Rescue, along with hundreds of other Grand Strand firefighters, are calling on the community to help spread the word about the bill and help get it passed. They’re asking residents to call their local legislators and ask them to pass the measure.
The legislation has been introduced in the South Carolina House and is being discussed in the House Judiciary Committee. The hope is to have the measure passed in the next legislative session.
Midway firefighters have taken several precautions to help prevent cancer such as taking a shower immediately after working a scene, using activated charcoal, washing their turnout gear, and using decontamination wipes.