National Firefighter Registry hopes to begin testing in coming months

Congress required the creation of the registry almost 4 years ago

Print Friendly, PDF & Email
Lone firefighter in smoke
Image from the NWCG “Wildland Firefighter Mental health” video.

The National Firefighter Registry (NFR) that is supposed to collect data on a voluntary basis to better understand the link between workplace exposures, cancer, and other chronic diseases among firefighters, hopes to begin testing the enrollment system “in the coming months,” according to an update from the leader of the Registry, Kenny Fent.

That is the gist of the message sent by Mr. Fent today, with no other significant details about the registry itself. But he announced three additions to the NFR Subcommittee, one of which is Tom Harbour, the former Director of Fire and Aviation for the US Forest Service. Three members of the Subcommittee are stepping down, including Chuck Bushey who also has a wildland fire background. Mr. Fent said the purpose of the Subcommittee is to “provide independent advice and guidance.”

Almost four years ago the Firefighter Cancer Registry Act of 2018 which passed July 7, 2018 required that the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), an agency within the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), establish a Firefighter Cancer Registry. Firefighters on the ground have yet to see any concrete examples of the effort, other than changing the name to just “National Firefighter Registry.”

Last year Congress made another attempt to get the registry started by adding a provision into the Tim Hart Wildland Firefighter Classification and Pay Parity Act, legislation which would also accomplish several things to improve the pay and working conditions of federal wildland firefighters. (We covered that legislation in another article.) But the Tim Hart Act has not made it out of committee since it was introduced in the House October 19.

Our take

The National Firefighter Registry has the potential to develop data that documents the health effects of fighting fire. Personnel considering it as a profession could make a better-informed decision in their career choice. And those tactical athletes who have been breathing smoke while working in one of the most physically demanding professions, could have facts to back up claims for treatment of conditions likely caused by the job. Congress and the Office of Worker’s Compensation Programs (OWCP) could better establish presumptive disease policies so that firefighters would not have to attempt to prove that certain cancers or their damaged lungs, knees, or back, were a result of their employment with the government.

Congress must exercise their oversight responsibility and hold hearings if necessary to strongly encourage Kenny Fent, the leader of the FR, to make every effort possible to establish the registry sooner rather than later.

It’s been almost four years.

Firefighters are biased toward action. They know how to get stuff done. Let’s get the NFR done.

Typos, let us know HERE, and specify which article. Please keep in mind our commenting ground rules before you post a comment.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

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.

10 thoughts on “National Firefighter Registry hopes to begin testing in coming months”

  1. I would love to be involved with this, I was, well still am fighting fire…A hotshot crewman, Sawyer, supt., For 14 years, Fuels tech for 7 yrs, district FMO for my remainder of 18 years more of less ..I have suffered from chronic back, hip pain since 2012, have permanent hearing loss with Tinitus, govt, did not approve my hearing loss????, I worked on the line full time as Divs, Ops2, Branch director, RXB1, etc….and have been left in pain with no relief….of course my ailments are do to my work ..I have been an SOF2 now for 4 years since retirement, as an AD…this will probably be my last year due to chronic pain, if u can pass the pack test….I served my country now you on my 40th fire season, now I have been abandoned?????

  2. As an older firefighter…from the mid ‘70’s-late ‘80’s I can feel the cumulative effects of long days/nights hunched over a pulaski/shovel or running a saw. Hard landings from my time as a jumper, loud saws, helicopters etc. etc…. Smoke inhalation/twisted knees/back…yup…but at least we have a person in charge of getting this so called registry up and running who has effectively done nothing?!? Why is he still there?
    Stay as safe as possible!

  3. I have had 4 colleagues die from glioblastoma (brain cancer). I was on the job for 24 years – wild land, hotshots, smokejumper, municipal. This is not a common cancer. The fact that this is not being studied is criminal negligence.

  4. This seems like it must be an urgent issue for them, glad they were able to get the name change locked down and after only 4 years…It seems like getting a couple hard charging GS-7’s and 8’s in there on the committee would speed it along,. All these old timers are just kegging things up.

  5. ABSOLUTELY!! It all seems to be passable in the moment because it’s “somebody else’s” problem. The folks dragging their feet on getting things done and moving forward with adequate compensation, or better yet, safer gear and practices to combat these work-related cancers, need to step into the realities that these firefighters face during every call. It also goes beyond increasing their compensation — money doesn’t keep the cancers from occurring — better and safety practices will go far in firefighter health and safety. Let’s protect them like they protect us!!

  6. Come on now Range Tech, it’s not the old timers fault…..the boomers are all gone now….you will have to find someone else to blame it on….Yes by all means young or otherwise fined someone that will kick this can in the right direction…..I am now 60 and much of my time spent on shots….yes I feel it….but in fairly good shape otherwise… have to to stay active, never stop, get up every morning and GO. Cancer is another thing altogether……Good luck, this is something that has been needed for decades…..

  7. If you want to know why the NFR isn’t deployed yet, I suggest you interview Mike Loudermilk, not Dr. Fent. Mike heads all of NIOSH’s tech efforts. There are issues that should be investigated.

  8. Dr. Fent is not the hold up. The head of NIOSH, John Howard, needs to be held responsible. The buck stops with him. I strongly suggest sending messages directly to him at jh******@cd*.gov stating your disappointments. As stated previously, under John’s leadership, the head of NIOSH’s tech efforts has been a hold-up on other important projects, including one studying WTC fire fighter health outcomes. They need to hear from the firefighting community!

Comments are closed.