COLERAIN TOWNSHIP, Ohio -- A new Ohio law is designed to protect the health of firefighters so that they can continue to protect others.
The law will allow firefighters diagnosed with cancer to file a workers' compensation claim to help cover some of the financial burden.
"Whatever resources are available through this bill that can help the families as well as the firefighters is well overdue and very much welcomed," Colerain Township firefighter Paul Riedel Riedel said.
Riedel has battled fires for nearly three decades. But less than halfway through his career, he received some unexpected news. Seventeen years ago this week he was diagnosed with stage four colon cancer.
From there, he underwent many surgeries and chemotherapy. All the while, he knew he wasn't alone. A recent study found about 68 percent of firefighters get cancer, compared to 22 percent of the general public.
"You don't ever think that I was going to develop cancer, especially when you have no family history on either side, no reason to have had it at all," Riedel said.
Doctors say cancer-causing chemicals in smoke and soot that firefighters are routinely exposed to could be to blame. Even when firefighters return to station, their gear could still contain some very harmful chemicals, which is why a thorough decontamination is necessary.
More than 30 other states have passed similar laws. In Ohio, the compensation will only apply to certain cancers, including lung, prostate and brain cancers.