CAMBRIA - The state organization that represents volunteer firefighters says it will continue its push this year for volunteer fire companies' right to bill for ambulance services and to have more types of cancer covered by its health benefit plan.
During a regional legislative meeting at Cambria Volunteer Fire Company on Sunday, the Firemen's Association of the State of New York, or FASNY, also said it wants the state to require smoke detectors with longer-lasting batteries that cannot be removed from the device.
The measures were among nine items from the group's legislative agenda discussed among about 60 representatives of area volunteer fire companies.
Under the Volunteer Firefighters' Benefit Law, there's a presumption that lung cancer was incurred in the firefighter's line of duty and not by the firefighter's own negligence, but the same coverage does not exist for other types of cancer which the group said also results from firefighting.
"Where's the fairness that the paid guys get it and the volunteers don't?" said Robin K. Schott, chairman of the group's Legislative Committee and volunteer with Hutchinson Hose Company in Williamsville.
The primary objection to the proposed expansion of coverage is its cost, he said. The group does not have an estimate for what such a move would cost.
On the issue of being able to charge for ambulance service, volunteer fire companies are prohibited from doing so under state law, said Marc E. Kasprzak, a past president of the Western New York Volunteer Firemen's Association, a member of the state group's Emergency Medical Services Committee and a volunteer with Shawnee Fire Company in Wheatfield.
While volunteer ambulance corps and commercial ambulance companies have the right to charge, the disparity has led some volunteer fire companies to stop providing ambulance service, which is a high-cost operation, Kasprzak said.
The push for this change, which the group says would "even the playing field," has been going on for about a decade, he said.
Bills on the expansion of cancer coverage and the right to bill for ambulance services were first introduced in 2011. The latest attempts to make the changes died in committee in both houses of the State Legislature last year, the organization said.
The state group this year is starting to push for the state to require smoke detectors that have batteries that last at least 10 years and that can't be removed from the device.
Smoke detectors remain critical life-saving equipment, as most fire deaths occur in homes with no smoke alarms or inoperable alarms, the group says.
The association anticipates some resistance because these types of smoke detectors, which are already on the market, are more expensive than the average detector.
The prices start around $20 online, and group representatives say this type of device is cheaper in the long run.
The proposal would be similar to the requirement for carbon monoxide detectors, said David J. Sweet, a member of the group's board from Penfield.
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