RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - A beloved, veteran Richmond firefighter is helping advocate for a bill that would expand Virginia worker's compensation for firefighters battling cancer.
Retired Fire Marshal David Creasy is fighting stage four cancer, as diagnoses among firefighters are rising at alarming rates. Exposure to toxic chemicals from modern materials claims more firefighter lives than any other hazard they face, according to the National Fire Protection Association.
Creasy, 66, doesn't want others to face the financial burden he and his family have endured. The type of stomach cancer he suffers from is not covered under the state worker's compensation for firefighters.
The extra funds from worker's compensation would have helped, since paying for treatment not covered by insurance has nearly depleted Creasy's life savings.
"We've pretty much wiped out our savings account," said Creasy.
House Bill 472 would add brain, colon and testicular cancer to the list covered by Virginia worker's compensation for first responders. Currently, the diagnoses eligible are prostate, rectal, throat, pancreatic, breast and ovarian cancers.
"We're seeing newer cancers in different parts of the body than we saw five, ten years ago," continued Creasy, of cancer diagnoses in the fire service.
Creasy dedicated 50 years to firefighting. Despite his debilitating illness, he regularly educates firefighters about how to protect themselves against toxins. His illness forced him to wear a mask while talking to a class of new Richmond recruits on Friday.
"When I started, we didn't always wear breathing apparatus," continued Creasy. "We coughed, gagged from the smoke…but we didn't realize we were taking things in our bodies that, years later, would give us cancer."
The bill also aims to remove the hurdles cancer-stricken firefighters face in obtaining worker's compensation. Currently, firefighters must prove how they got the cancer, listing hundreds of chemicals and exactly when they were exposed. It's a typically arduous process involving attorneys.
Despite it all, Creasy remains dedicated to his career as a firefighter and helping his comrades protect themselves.
We asked Creasy if he would have changed his career, knowing what he knows now about the exposure and the risks.
"No, I don't regret a thing," said Creasy, without a breath of hesitation.
The bill goes before a House Commerce and Labor subcommittee on Tuesday, Jan. 23 in room W011 (Pocahontas Building, ground floor), after the adjournment of the full committee.
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