’Light at the end of the tunnel’: Firefighter cancer bill heads to the governor’s desk

Local fire department a big supporter of firefighter benefit bill

PAWLEY’S ISLAND, S.C. (WMBF) - A bill that would financially support firefighters if they’re diagnosed with cancer is closer to becoming state law.

On Wednesday, the South Carolina House passed the third reading of the Firefighter Cancer Healthcare Benefits Plan. The bill received approval from the Senate earlier this year. It was then sent back to the Senate where they immediately passed the legislation on Wednesday. It is now headed Gov. McMaster’s desk for his signature.

If a firefighter is diagnosed with one of several types of cancer listed in the bill, 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.

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

Midway Fire Chief Doug Eggiman said cancer is the leading cause of death for firefighters. The department lost one of their own, Battalion Chief Josh Carney, to cancer in 2017.

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He said they’ve spent years advocating for the bill.

“So many people in the fire service and spouses and representatives have pushed hard and fought hard to get this in place so we’re hopeful there seems to be light at the end of the tunnel,” said Eggiman.

Division Chief Matt Smittle was diagnosed with prostate cancer last year. He said the community helped raise some money for his medical expenses that cost tens of thousands of dollars.

“The firefighters, their families and going to need money upfront before even making it to the hospital or any kind of treatment and that was the hardest part,” said Smittle.

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