State firefighters, families celebrate cancer benefits legislation

State Fire Marshal Patronis: ‘We need to have their back’

Florida lawmakers and first responders gathered to celebrate long-awaited legislation that will soon provide cancer benefits for fire fighters diagnosed with job-related cancer.

SEMINOLE COUNTY, Fla. – Florida lawmakers and first responders gathered Tuesday to celebrate long-awaited legislation that will soon provide benefits for firefighters diagnosed with job-related cancers.

They chose Seminole County Station 21, home for veteran paramedic Jazz Zambo, a two-time cancer survivor.

“We’ve been fighting for this bill for a very long time,” Zambo said. “Our families are protected and will get some type of compensation, as well, which has been lacking for many years.”

Under the new law, 21 forms of cancer contracted in the line of duty will be covered. The new legislation provides financial help to cover some of the costs associated with cancer treatment.

The bill was signed into law by Gov. Ron DeSantis on May 3 and will not only give financial support for cancer treatment, but will also provide financial benefits to the families of firefighters who die from work-related cancer.

State Chief Financial Officer and Fire Marshal Jimmy Patronis said his wife's recent battle with breast cancer helped him understand how cancer can impact an entire family.

“This bill is the real deal, and this is a victory we celebrate for every firefighter," he said. “When cancer touches one member of the family, it’s the entire family’s fight.”

Patronis said the fight to get the cancer benefits actually started two years ago.

In his view, the new bill gives every firefighter dealing with cancer peace of mind.

“We don’t have the communities that we have today if it isn’t for our brave first responders,” Patronis said. “They’re heroes and sometimes we have to make sure that the state of Florida is doing everything possible to have their back.”

The bill makes firefighters who are diagnosed with certain cancers eligible to receive certain disability or death benefits. Specifically, in lieu of pursuing workers’ compensation coverage, a firefighter is entitled to cancer treatment and a one-time cash payout of $25,000 upon the firefighter’s initial diagnosis of cancer.

In order to be entitled to such benefits, the firefighter must:

  • Be employed full-time as a firefighter
  • Be employed by the state, university, city, county, port authority, special district or fire control district
  • Have been employed by his or her employer for at least five continuous years
  • Not have used tobacco products for at least the preceding five years
  • Have not been employed in any other position in the preceding five years which is proven to create a higher risk for cancer

For more information on the bill and the benefits, click here.

About the Author:

News 6’s Emmy Award-winning Investigative Reporter Mike Holfeld has made Central Florida history with major investigations that have led to new policies, legislative proposals and even -- state and national laws. If you have an issue or story idea, call Mike's office at 407-521-1322.