OCOEE, Fla. – Florida’s Chief Financial Officer and Fire Marshal Jimmy Patronis visited a fire station in Ocoee on Thursday to announce an increase in state funding for a grant program meant to help fire departments purchase safety equipment to limit crews’ exposure to cancer-causing contaminants on the job.
Patronis made the announcement at the Ocoee Fire Station on South Bluford Avenue, where he announced a $112,579 disbursement to the aforementioned effect, part of the $250,000 headed toward the Cancer Decontamination Grant Program in due time, he said.
“As we work with the legislature, I’m proud to say that over the last year we have doubled the resources they’ve made available, we’ve got $250,000 that we’re going to be awarding throughout the state and we’re going to give out, today, $112,000 of this money,” Patronis said. “13 fire stations are going to be the beneficiary of these resources and when you think about- I love to remind people, that the men and women that don the uniform whether you’re a firefighter, EMT, a law enforcement officer, there’s no state in my opinion that appreciates our first responders more than Florida.”
The money given out Thursday included $8,093 for the Ocoee Fire Department, $6,216 for the Seminole County Fire Department and $17,248 for Marion County Fire Rescue.
Joining Patronis for the announcement was a series of state representatives, fire chiefs and others associated with the firefighting profession.
The list included Reps. David Smith, R-District 28, and Fred Hawkins, R-District 42, as well as Seminole County Fire Department Chief Matt Kinley and Ocoee Fire Department Chief Tom Smothers.
A News 6 investigation last year led to a call to expand coverage of cancers for firefighters after Gov. Ron DeSantis signed Senate Bill 426 into law, legislation designed to cover firefighters diagnosed with 21 cancers, including lung cancer.
The law went into effect July 1, 2019, and provides a one-time payout of $25,000 along with coverage for all out-of-pocket medical expenses for eligible Florida firefighters.
“There’s a reason why they call medicine a practice,” Patronis said to News 6 in November. “I think there’s an opportunity to take what we’re learning, the legislature just might have to expand the bill.”
Patronis said his office “would be supportive” of expanded coverage provided a member of the legislature files the addendum.