Fire fighters from across the state filled the lobby of the State House this morning, in uniform, to express concerns over pressing issues within their profession. Though they are aware there are budget issues, they believe that the current health care coverage provided to these men and women is not sufficient for the risks they take. Chief Alvin Payne of the Myrtle Beach Fire Department says this issue does not have a monetary value. “Some of the things are presumptive health for our fire fighters who go out there every day and put their lives on the line,” he said.
“Right now we don’t have cancer protection. It’s a heart and lung bill. It only covers heart-attacks and respiratory issues. On a federal level that are also presumptive health issues, so, on a state level we are trying to fight that. (We’re) trying to make sure our fire fighters are protected in the event of some catastrophic illness later on in their lives.”
Payne says that cancer is a real threat to fire fighters. “That’s one of the things we believe that, not only is it respiratory but, cancer is in every avenue of life anymore.
“Everything you eat–you have to watch out for what you’re eating–that causes cancer, this causes cancer. We know that carcinogenic smoke causes cancer and that type of fire events create a lot of those toxic gases that causes cancer.”
Scott Hawkins of the state Forestry Commission, says the North Myrtle Beach wildfire made a good case for budgeting equipment upgrades to improve health and safety. According to Hawkins, “We’re out there, all over the TVs, fighting this fire in fire plows that are pretty old and do not have environmental cabs for the drivers which other states do.
“We’re the last state without environmental cabs. So they’re breathing the smoke and what not, the dust, with no air filters, no air conditioning. These are the things we would like to improve on.”