Volunteer firefighters protected under new legislation

  • May. 18, 2011 5:00 p.m.

ADAM JACKSON/Ponoka News

A recent move to by the Government of Alberta has Ponoka Fire Chief Ted Dillon pleased.

Under pressure from many volunteer firefighters associations, Alberta Employment and Immigration Minister Thomas Lukaszuk introduced a new bill in the legislature that protects volunteer firefighters against four more types of workplace related cancers — bringing the list to 14.

Bill 20, The Workers’ Compensation Amendment Act, was supported unanimously by all parties in the legislature and was fast-tracked on May 10.

This decision means that all volunteer firefighters suffering from work-related cancer will receive the same benefits as full-time firefighters.

“It’s great, anything that is done to help volunteer firefighters is great,” said Dillon.

Ponoka Fire Department is purely volunteer, casual or pay-by-call.

Dillon says that the move by the provincial legislature is ideal for Alberta because just over 95 per cent of Alberta’s land mass is protected by volunteer, casual or paid-by-call firefighters.

“The firefighters of Alberta are the people who go into the fire while the rest of us get out,” said Lukaszuk during a press conference in Edmonton.

Lukaszuk said the cost of the additional coverage has not been estimated and would be assessed as time goes on. He noted that municipalities already pay WCB premiums for volunteer firefighters and those premiums are not expected to increase.

“At the end of the day this is not about dollars and cents,” Lukaszuk said.

Edson Fire Chief Al Schram, who joined Lukaszuk during the press conference, and runs a volunteer fire department, says that the new bill will make it easier to recruit and retain volunteer firefighters in smaller communities.