Bill moving through S.C. Legislature could offer relief for local firefighters battling cancer

Tuesday, February 25, 2020
News 12 NBC 26 at 11 o'clock

AIKEN, S.C. (WRDW/WAGT) - South Carolina is one of two states without protection for firefighters with cancer.

State lawmakers are now trying to change that, and local legislators are co-sponsoring a few bills on the issue working through the Statehouse this session.

These bills could impact firefighters battling cancer here in the CSRA. In the past ten years, seven Aiken public safety officers have been diagnosed with cancer.

Lt. Brian Key and Capt. David Turno are two of them. In between saving lives, they've been trying to save their own.

"I'm proud that I'm still an interior structure firefighter," said Capt. David Turno, Aiken Public Safety. "That I can still do, and training I still do participate in . . . Working helps us. It keeps your mind off of it."

Capt. Turno was diagnosed in July of 2016 with brain cancer. Lt. Key has been fighting blood cancer since 2014.

"It costs," Lt. Key said. "It costs to travel to do treatments to afford the medical expenses."

Capt. Turno gets treatment up at Duke Cancer Center, where he says he'll likely have MRIs the rest of his life.

But for most firefighters with cancer, the cost is a killer in itself.

Senator Tom Young is a co-sponsor of a bill working to ease the burden.

"We depend on firefighters in our community when something goes wrong, and we have a fire," Sen. Young said. "This was one way that I could support the firefighters in our community."

The bill would offer an insurance policy for firefighters with cancer.
It offers $12,000 annually to cover medical expenses and a benefit of $20,000 upon diagnosis.

Aiken Public Safety started offering cancer insurance a couple years ago, but it doesn't help those diagnosed with cancer before then.

"We are fortunate no one's had to claim it," Capt. Turno said. "But if we had it ten years ago, there would've been seven of us."

Four of those officers have since died, according to ADPS.

Capt. Turno and Lt. Key may be fighting without any financial help, but they are fighting for the future.

"The fact that there is that awareness," Lt. Key said. "I think it puts us that much closer to finding cures, so the next generation maybe don't have to deal with this."

Sen. Young says this bill is a different approach than what's been offered up in the past. He's optimistic it will pass this session. If not, his constituents will likely try again.