President Joe Biden made remarks last week at the Summit for Fire Prevention and Control, honoring the heroism and bravery of our firefighters. This gathering of our nation’s fire service leadership occurred during Fire Prevention Week, which marks its 100th year of observance.
Biden signed into law a presumption that a first responder who dies of COVID-19 can qualify for federal public safety officer benefits, and he acknowledged that cancer is the leading cause of death among firefighters.
“I’d like to take a moment at the top here to honor the lives we’ve lost of those in the past two years, including from COVID — 135 on-duty firefighters in 2021, another 77 to date in 20- — 2022,” said Biden. “And it’s a — it’s an acute reminder of the risk firefighters bear and, quite frankly, of their bravery. You’re the only ones who run toward flames and not away from them when that fire bell rings.”
Biden also highlighted the risks first responders face in potential future cancer diagnoses during his virtual address. He stated:
“Cancer is a leading killer of firefighters. Toxic substances you’ve been exposed to as part of your job are almost certainly — certainly connected to those cancer diagnoses. And we’re doing — we’re going to do something about it.
The Cancer Moonshot is bringing together every part of our government to cut cancer death rates in half and to end cancer as we know it, including by addressing environmental and toxic exposures to prevent cancer.
We just passed national legislation — national legislation to deal with the burn pits in Afghanistan and Iraq, and — that so many of our soldiers — we finally got it passed so that we can care for their families if they’ve been — lost their lives or care for them, in fact, if they — if they’re going through this.
We created a special claims unit at the Department of Labor to ensure that they’re processing federal firefighters’ cancer claims quickly.”
The president continued, stating, “I’m urging Congress to send to my desk the Federal Firefighters Fairness Act — let me say it again: the Federal Firefighters Fairness Act — which are going to help federal firefighters and their families assess critical worker compensation resources, including making sure that several forms of cancer are presumed to be caused — presumed to be caused by the firefighter’s job.”
Biden, speaking from the Whitehouse remotely, told the gathered assembly, “I’m also proud that last November, I signed into law Protecting America’s First Responders Act, which extends the benefits under the Public Safety Officers’ Death Benefits Program to the families of firefighters killed in training and made it easier to qualify for permanent disability.”
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