New York U.S. Senator Charles Schumer stopped by Troy's Central Fire Station on Monday to promote legislation that would create the first ever national firefighter cancer registry, along with three major grants for the Collar City's fire crews.
Schumer returned to Troy fulfilling a promise he made at Central Fire Station last fall to get local firefighters more grant money.
"I stood here at Troy Central Fire, on a cold day in November, and we launched our push to get a critical grant, the Assistance to Firefighters Program, to bolster our fire departments, and we wanted to make sure that we weren't shortchanged. One of the problems was there'd been a proposal to dramatically cut the fire grant the AFG grant and the SAFER grant. And I said we'd fight to change that in the budget. And at the end of December we achieved that. We got the money restored that some people wanted to cut."
The Democrat says the programs are still underfunded, thanks to inflation. "Right now only 22 percent of departments that applied for the AFG are successful, only 19 percent for the SAFER grant. But Troy's gotten both of them."
Troy has received $1.8 million through three grants: an $520,000 AFG grant for equipment and training, and $290,000 for the port security grant that will pay for a new Troy fireboat. The third grant of $970,000 will add seven additional firefighters to the city’s roster.
Frank Razzano, the president of the Troy Uniformed Firefighters, praised Schumer and Mayor Patrick Madden. "Last year when members of the Troy Uniformed Firefighters Association met with Senator Schumer, we asked for his help with the SAFER grant and he assured us he was going to do everything in his power to help us. And I think today is evidence that the Senator is a man of his word. And we'd like to thank him for that. I'd like to also thank Mayor Madden and his staff. Mayor Madden met with us when he was running for mayor, and he assured us that he was good with grant writing. And you know what? We got a lotta grants so far this year and I think that that's evidence of Mayor Madden's history of being able to secure things that we need here in Troy."
Troy is already recruiting to fill those seven positions. Schumer promised he'll work to get more grants for Troy's firefighters. "They're amazing people. The camaraderie in the firehouse. The bravery. They run towards danger and not away from it. And we all breathe a little easier knowing they're there."
Schumer turned talk to what he says is a need for a national firefighter cancer registry, which would help doctors track and treat sick firefighters more effectively, pointing out that today's firefighters are exposed to harmful toxins, putting them at a higher risk for cancer. "Newer buildings are made with all kinds of new materials. And those materials, when there's a fire, they get into the air. And our firefighters breathe them in. Not just in the walls, but furniture, toys , clothing, all have all kinds of new things that weren't known 30 or 40 or 50 years ago. For instance, we've learned that flame retardant that was put in furniture and mattresses could get into a firefighter's lungs and cause real harm."
The cancer awareness came full circle after 9/11, according to Troy Assistant Fire Chief Eric McMahon: "We have a number of guys that went down to September 11th and the research that's coming out, the information that's coming out is a little scarey for the guys who were on the line."
Sam Fresina is President-Elect of the NYS Professional Firefighters Association: "My colleagues have seen during that time, many firefighters fall to illnesses, various types of cancers at a much higher rate than the general public. We've been to funerals, we've had to comfort families and we've had to comfort our colleagues.”
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention would oversee The National Cancer Registry Schumer is pushing. Schumer, who was scheduled to discuss the legislation in Poughkeepsie and New Rochelle Tuesday, didn't give specific numbers but said "it's really not that expensive" to establish the registry.