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Province extends coverage to volunteer firefighters

Volunteer firefighters will be compensated for workplace illnesses on the same terms as full-time firefighters, following a new regulation announced this week by the provincial governent.

The changes presume that eight types of cancer – as well as heart injuries suffered within 24 hours of fighting a fire or a training exercise – are work-related unless proven otherwise.

The new regulation will make it easier for volunteer and part-time fire fighters and fire investigators to qualify for benefits under the Workplace Safety and Insurance Act.

Woolwich Coun. Mark Bauman, a longtime advocate for equal treatment for volunteer and full-time firefighters, gave the news “two thumbs up.”

“Fires don’t differentiate between who’s fighting them, so the threats and the dangers are as real for volunteers as they are for full-time,” he said.

“It’s great to see that there is that recognition by the government that volunteer firefighters are just as valuable as full-time people.”

There are about 11,000 full-time firefighters in Ontario, 19,000 volunteer and 220 part-time firefighters.

The regulation will apply to volunteer and part-time firefighters and fire investigators from the Office of the Ontario Fire Marshal who meet certain conditions and to diseases diagnosed or heart injuries sustained on or after Jan. 1, 1960.

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