SUFFOLK, Va. (WAVY) — Virginia firefighters are fighting for their own lives. 

On Wednesday morning, local firefighters called on the Hampton Roads delegation in the General Assembly to vote yes on a state bill that would make it easier for firefighters with cancer to get the help they need.

The Senate passed a bill (SB 1030) almost unanimously, with just one no vote, last week. On Thursday, a house committee will take its version. House Bill 1804 would add several cancers to the list firefighters are covered for and close a loopole that allows workers compensation to
deny some benefits.

“My case is working its way through the workers comp process, has a hearing on March 4 to determine if I’m covered or not,” Newport News firefighter Adrian Manning told 10 On Your Side.

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Manning’s wife said they were stunned to hear they would have to fight for his benefits while fighting for his life. “We had to prove that he had been exposed to a toxin and in fires we don’t test what burned down once it’s burned down we don’t look for those toxins afterwards.” Amy Manning told  

The Mannings are not alone in their fight.

“I stood beside a bed and promised a widow that we would take care of this after her husband died from brain cancer in York County,” said Don Dinse with the York, Williamsburg, Poquoson, James City Professional Fire Fighters Association.

Dinse says the time to pass the bill is now.  It would add brain, colon and testicular cancer to the list of presumed work-related illnesses under Virginia’s workers’ compensation act.

“Cancer is the most dangerous threat to firefighters health and safty today,” said Kurt Detrick, President of the Portsmouth Professional Firefighters Association.

Because of the chemicals in furniture and other houshold items today firefighters are at greater risk for exposure to carcinogens in the air and on their skin. The newest research supported by the Centers for Disease Control shows firefighers are twice as likely to get testicular cancer and much more likely to get brain and colon cancer.  

Despite new efforts and methods they’re using to wash down equipment and protect themselves, they say they cannot eliminate all risks. They are asking for the bill as a backup.

Opponents argue it could cost cities millions of dollars. Manning argues, “Numbers and statistics are not the end game, your people are.” And he fears if the bill doesn’t pass, communities will have a hard time retaining and recruiting fire fighers in the future.