National Legislation Would Ensure Firefighters’ Cancer Deaths are Treated as Line-Of-Duty Deaths

DULUTH, Minn. — There’s legislation at the federal level called the Honoring our Fallen Heroes Act that would expand line-of-duty deaths to include firefighters who have died from cancer. That means families of those who have died from the disease would receive the benefits of a line-of-duty death.

The legislation is being co-sponsored by Minnesota Senator Amy Klobuchar and North Dakota Senator Kevin Cramer.

The leading cause of death among firefighters is cancer. According to the International Association of Firefighters, 75% of line-of-duty deaths in 2022 were due to occupational cancer.

The widow of former Maple Grove and St. Paul firefighter Mike Paidar, Julie Paidar, knows this fact all too well. Her husband died in 2020, just six months after he was diagnosed with Acute Myeloid Leukemia. After her husband’s death, Julie worked to have Minnesota include a firefighter’s cancer as a line-of-duty death.

Klobuchar talked about Julie’s efforts to expand benefits to firefighters. “In 2021, Julie worked with IAFF Local 21 to make the case that his cancer resulted from his job. Because of their efforts, the Minnesota Department of Public Safety awarded line-of-duty benefits for the first time in Minnesota and extended death benefits to the family of a firefighter who had died of cancer,” Klobuchar said.

The national president of the International Association of Firefighters, Edward Kelly, is supporting the national effort to include firefighter cancer deaths as occurring in the line of duty. “There’s no doubt that when we respond to a fire the off-gassing of what’s burning is toxic and carcinogenic,” Kelly said.

Julie Paidar explained why she’s led the efforts to get this changed at both the state and national level: “I’ve always said this is not just for Mike. This is for others that hopefully, something good can come out of our heartache.”

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