Victoria’s parliament passes presumptive rights compensation for wildland firefighters

Wildland firefighters are at high risk for cardiovascular disease, lung cancer, and other conditions

6:48 a.m. PDT Nov. 3, 2021

firefighters Dixie Fire
Firefighters near the site of a venting propane tank on the Dixie Fire. Posted Aug 6, 2021. Lassen National Forest photo.

The Parliament in Victoria, Australia has passed legislation that extends the presumptive disease program to wildland firefighters. It also includes “surge firefighters” who are government employees normally in other roles, but who perform firefighting duties during the fire season as part of their agency’s surge capacity as needed.

The presumptive disease program ensures that if a firefighter is diagnosed with any of the 12 listed cancers, they will not have to prove that it was caused by their employment, and it will be considered an on the job injury.

The cancers covered are brain, bladder, kidney, non-Hodgkins lymphoma, leukemia, breast, testicular, multiple myeloma, prostate, ureter, colorectal, and esophageal. The employee must have been on the job for 5 to 15 years, depending on which disease they have.

The presumptive right will apply to individuals diagnosed on or after June 1, 2016 if the diagnosis occurs during the course of a person’s service as a firefighter or within 10 years after they have ceased to serve.

Lily D’Ambrosio, the Minister for Energy, Environment and Climate Change, explained the program in detail during the second reading of the bill. Here is a link to the legislation.

Wildland firefighters are at high risk for cardiovascular disease, lung cancer, and other illnesses, including chronic conditions in their knees, shoulders, and backs.

This is an important issue that should also be addressed for federal firefighters in the United States. The Grassroots Wildland Firefighters organization endorsed this type of a program in a position paper.

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Author: Bill Gabbert

After working full time in wildland fire for 33 years, he continues to learn, and strives to be a Student of Fire.

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