SJC Advocates for Firefighters

St. Johns County Leaders Advocate for Legislative Action to Protect Firefighters

In a development during the January 2024 Legislative session, St. Johns County Leaders convened with the Department of Financial Services to propose legislative measures aimed at expanding presumptive disability coverage to include neurodegenerative diseases.

The expansion of presumptive disability coverage is to include neurodegenerative diseases for firefighters inflicted by the condition. This would provide the required treatment and medical care to maintain quality of life.

Preliminary studies have indicated that firefighters who are routinely exposed to toxic chemicals may face an increased likelihood of developing Parkinson’s disease and other neurological disorders*. There has also been a 129% increase in industrial fires since 2021**, which potentially exposes firefighters to chemical hazards such as Lead, Styrene, Benzene, PBDE, and Arsenic.

With the increase of neurological diseases within the profession, further comprehensive studies must be completed. To facilitate the achievement of these legislative initiatives, St. Johns County is pursuing State support in conducting comprehensive research to determine the correlation between toxic exposure and neurological deficits.

This initiative traces back to a gas station explosion in St. Augustine in January 2011. Firefighters combating the blaze were potentially exposed to harmful chemicals that could create long-term health effects.

“Knowing that we had between 50 or 60 people there that day, knowing that they are waiting every day for a sign of something to pop up is something we have to act on,” said Sarah Arnold, Board Chair, District 2. “We have to do something about this…. We have to continue to fight for them and to protect them.”

*Source: Tufts University School of Medicine Study

**Source: National Fire Protection Association Data.