Hawaii firefighters fight for workers compensation benefits due to cancer

Local News

Firefighters risk their lives everyday to keep us safe and their work puts them in dangerous and unhealthy situations.

Now Hawaii firefighters are asking for some help.

“Certain types of cancer occurs one and a half to two times more often in firefighters,” said Assistant Fire Chief Socrates Bratakos of the Honolulu Fire Department.

It’s a shocking statistic, especially since the people involved are the men and women who are putting their lives in harms way to save others.

“I was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma back in the end of 2010 and I was treated in early 2011 and I have been in remission since the summer,” said Bratakos.

Bratakos says he’s fortunate the cancer was treatable. Due to strict laws, he and others are unable to receive workers compensation if they develop cancer.

Now he’s making a plea to lawmakers to get that help for firefighters.

“We want the intent of the law to get looked at to be able to provide help for firefighters who get sick as a result of the job and get them help and financial help a little faster,” said Bratakos.

If a firefighter is hurt on the job, there is workers’ compensation. The hard part is proving their job caused cancer.

A study done by the University of Cincinnati shows the risk of firefighters getting cancer compared to the general population.

A firefighter has a 102 percent higher chance of getting testicular cancer, a 51 percent higher chance of developing non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma and a 39 percent higher chance of getting skin cancer.

“We still come in contact with carcinogens. It’s just a fact if you’re in fires or exposed to hazardous material,” said Bratakos. “You do have more contact with them and your chances of contracting cancer go up.”

Bratakos said there are 33 states that currently have these laws that allow firefighters to receive workers’ compensation benefits if they get cancer.

“I was a treatable case, but I see other people going through even tougher times than I went through,” said Bratakos.

Copyright 2019 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

Trending Stories