• Retired firefighter fights for benefits for fallen heroes families

    By: Angela Jacobs

    Updated:

    ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. - A retired Orange County firefighter is walking hundreds of miles to raise awareness about firefighters who die from cancer.

    Tom “Bull” Hill is walking from Key West to Tallahassee to urge lawmakers to grant benefits to families of firefighters who die of cancer. The benefits are not available in Florida and 10 other states.

    Hill walked through Orange County on his way to Brevard County Tuesday.

    Read: Cancer-detecting dogs lending their noses to firefighters

    Studies show firefighters are twice as likely to die from cancer than the general public.

    After seeing the firsthand the effect on families of first responders, Hill said he’s determined to walk his way to action.

    Hill wants lawmakers to recognize cancer deaths in firefighters as deaths "in the line of duty" and grant benefits to families left behind.

    “It doesn't even seem legal, what's going on here,” Hill told Channel 9’s Angela Jacobs

    Read: 9 Investigates concerns surrounding firefighting and cancer risks

    Along the way, he's been welcomed by local fire departments and citizens helping him carry backpacks of helmet shields from families across the country 

    “Since then, it’s been nothing but love,” Hill said.

    Bull should reach Central Florida next week.

    “There's not one step that he'll take across Orange County where he will be alone,” said Orange County Fire Rescue Chief Otto Drozd.

    Bull is heading north on U.S. 1 toward Melbourne. Track his path here.

    Read: 9 Investigates: Orlando firefighters exposed to high levels of asbestos

    The state is funding a study at the University of Miami to look at the possible link between firefighters and cancer. 

    Researchers will follow firefighters, including those with Orange County for years and monitor their health.

    See the petition here.

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