Bills would provide health coverage for ailing Valley firefighters

- Boots on the Ground represent the lives lost well after the fire is put out. 

Signs with statistics were held by the men and women who know the struggles all too well of cancer and heart illnesses killing firefighters. Today was all about getting more coverage for those like Goodyear's Gilbert Aguirre.

"Pretty much took my family from being almost debt free to being almost homeless and bankrupt in less than two years," he said.

We talked to Gilbert back in November about his simultaneous battles with leukemia and his insurance company.

"It feels like they're just trying to prove that I did this to myself," he said.

Just a few weeks ago, he found out for the third time he's been denied workman's compensation that he's entitled to, according to state law. His leukemia is on a list of eight cancers that are presumed to have been caused by firefighting.

HB 2161 would more than double that list and the language will also make it harder for insurance companies to find loopholes to deny coverage to people like Gilbert.

"It's been a long, hard process," he said. "Draining financially, mentally, everything else."

With Cardiac illness, there's no law in the books at all related to workman's compensation, despite the fact that it's the leading cause of death for firefighters around the country.

Another house bill, 2410, is about changing that, as well.

"The message is the people who are protecting the public are also going to need some protection from the legislature," Stephen Gilman said.

Gilman is with the Professional Firefighters of Arizona and says the bills, for some reason, have hit a stand still, but he hopes a final vote will happen in the Senate sooner rather than later.

"Our legislature is usually quick to show up for a funeral, for an in-the-line-of-duty death and we're hoping that our members who are suffering from these kinds of agonizing illnesses will get the same kind of support," he said.

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