NH Gov. Chris Sununu Signs Firefighter Cancer Treatment Bill Into Law

A bill nearly three decades in the making was signed Tuesday by New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu. The new law will provide funding for firefighters who are diagnosed with cancer.

The governor chose to sign the bill in Portsmouth because about six years ago, the department lost two of their firefighters to cancer.

It was May of 2012 when Diane Hartford last hugged her son.

"I miss my talks with Jeff, I just miss seeing him," Hartford said through tears on Tuesday.

Portsmouth firefighter Jeff Bokum was only 39 when he lost his battle with cancer.

"He died loving what he did," Hartford said.

Just six months before Bokum's death, cancer took the life of 40-year-old Sarah Fox. She was a mom of four-year-old twins and a veteran Portsmouth firefighter.

"It was tough for everybody here," said Lt. Russ Osgood.

He says the department did everything it could to raise money for both families because under New Hampshire law, there was no help for firefighters diagnosed with occupational cancer.

They raised about $50,000 selling pink ribbon helmet decals to firefighters across the state.

"The guys did everything they could to help during their battles," Osgood said.

On Tuesday, both families stood behind Sununu as he signed a bill into law funding cancer treatments for firefighters through worker's compensation.

"It's just nice to know that out of something so tragic, something good comes from it," said Fox's brother, Jonathan Cripps.

Studies show that firefighters are at a nine percent greater risk of being diagnosed with cancer than the general public.

"It has been a matter of 'when' and not 'if' a firefighter will receive a diagnosis," said Paul Parisi, chief of the Salem Fire Department in New Hampshire.

Jeff Bokum's mom is hopeful her son's legacy of helping others will now live on through this new legislation.

"It's going to relieve a burden for a lot of families and I know my Jeff is here and very happy," Hartford said.

New Hampshire follows 40 other states in the U.S. that have similar laws on the books. Massachusetts is not yet one of them.

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