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Gov. Baker Signs Law Covering Cancer Costs For Firefighters

BOSTON (CBS) - It's an important day for the health and well-being of Massachusetts firefighters.  From now on, a cancer diagnosis will be treated as a work related injury.  That means valuable protections for first responders.

When firefighters answer the call we all know they put their lives on the line.  What you may not know is that studies show firefighters are significantly more likely to be diagnosed with, and die from cancer than the general population is.

Firefighters are more likely to get cancer than the average person. (WBZ-TV)

"We accept the sacrifice of our job as part of our calling.  But when we get diagnosed with cancer, and we run out of sick leave, and we go off the payroll and we lose our healthcare, that is just wrong," said Ed Kelly of the International Association of Firefighters.

That's how it was in the past. On Tuesday, however, Gov. Charlie Baker signed a new law that changes all that, treating cancer as a work related injury for Mass. firefighters, and ensuring their treatments are fully covered and their jobs and families are protected.

"There's plenty of documented evidence at this point that cancer is a very real hazard of the job.  And we ought to make sure we're doing what we need to do to make sure people who end up in that situation get the support they need," Baker told a crowd, gathered to witness the signing.

Firefighter Cancer Bill
Gov. Baker signed the new bill Tuesday, protecting firefighters. (WBZ-TV)

The bill is named after Plymouth firefighter Tony Colarusso, who died from cancer in 2015.  His family was there Tuesday.

"He was adamant that no other firefighter or first responder should have to go through this, so I know now that this bill passed today, that Tony is up there and he's celebrating," said firefighter Colarusso's mother, Sharmon.

In Massachusetts more than 300 active firefighters have been diagnosed with cancer in the last two years. The new law was passed unanimously by state legislators.

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