Coquitlam Firefighters Local 1782
Esophageal cancer added as illness covered for firefighters
Updated On: Jan 16, 2012

Almost 4,000 firefighters will qualify

VANCOUVER (NEWS1130) - BC firefighters who develop esophageal cancer will now have an easier time qualifying for health benefits. The province has added the disease to a list of ten covered by the Workers Compensation Act.

This means a firefighter will no longer have to show extra medical or scientific evidence they contracted esophageal cancer on the job. But they will need to have 25 years of service and be assigned mainly to fire suppression duties.

Pamela Alspach's father, a long-time Surrey firefighter, died of esophageal cancer three years ago and had to fight to get covered by WorkSafe BC.

"Days before dad passed away, he received a letter from WorkSafe BC," she says. "The letter advised him that his injury was considered work-related and that health benefits only would be looked after."

"He did cry, and he did say that now he could rest in peace knowing that all of you would be looked after because this was a path that had been started," she adds.

Vancouver Fire Chief John McKearney says modern construction means firefighters are exposed to a lot more material:

"Smoke that is synthetic, much more so in nature," he explains. "The furnishings are much more plastics-orientated.  As much as we try to ensure that our firefighters are well-protected with personal protective equipment, you can't eradicate all of it when you're in these type of environments."

He says firefighters are more diligent about wearing protective gear than 20 years ago.

About 3,800 firefighters will be covered by the change, including full-time, volunteer, part-time, and paid on-call firefighters.

  • Dan Burritt
  • 2011/07/15

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