SPRINGDALE, Ark. - The U.S. House of Representatives passed a bill to extend certain benefits to firefighters with cancer and their families.
If signed into law, the Firefighter Cancer Registry Act of 2017 will provide about two-million dollars of federal funds to help protect firefighters on the job.
"He had no regrets about this job," Widow of Bud Planchon Jane Planchon said.
Bud Planchon worked at the Springdale Fire Department for 25 years before passing away from colon cancer in 2014.
During his fight, Bud and his wife Jane worked to prove his cancer diagnosis was linked to his career.
"He wanted his guys to be safe," Planchon said. "He would be very gratified to know that his death wasn't in vain and that things are finally happening in our state and across the country to help other firefighter families. "
The Firefighter Cancer Registry Act of 2017 is one step closer to becoming law.
If passed, it would require the CDC to develop and maintain a registry regarding the incidence of cancer in firefighters.
"We really need to take care of ourselves and protect ourselves from what we used to do," Springdale Fire Department Chief Mike Irwin said. "We don't know how much exposure we have to the cancer until we start tracking it and I think we are going to be surprised when we start seeing the results."
The bill would also provide data to improve equipment and enhance safety protocols -- something the Springdale Fire Department constantly works to achieve.
Staying safe on the job is a matter of life and death.
"It doesn't really catch your attention until it hits close to home like with Captain Planchon," Springdale Fire Department Captain Steve Lewis said. "It really opens your eyes. Things don't happen a month into the job. It's years after a fire and have been working on the job and been exposed to all these things."
"Firefighters' expectancy is shortened just by doing this job and that's part of it is the things we are exposed to," Springdale Fire Department Captain Jeremy Shinn said. "I want all my friends to live to a ripe old age and it could save my life."
Now three years after her husband's death, Jane hopes this bill will become law and save firefighting families from the grief she still endures.
"Education is key," Planchon said. "The more information we can get through this federal funding and study to link back to preventing the cancer from happening in the first place. That would be phenomenal to protect our first responders like they do us."
The bill still has to be passed by the U.S. Senate before it becomes a law.
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