STERLING HEIGHTS, Mich. (WJBK) - More than a year after the firefighter's fund was passed by state lawmakers in Lansing, the fund - which was supposed to cover health costs - is empty.
When the flames flare up, the men and women from the fire department run in. But the danger doesn't end when the fire is out; too many heroes end up battling cancer years after the fires have all been put out. People like Doug Batty, who fought fires for 20 years in Sterling Heights. He never had a problem, until last year.
"I'm normally like the Energizer bunny. From sun up to sun down I'm going 100 miles per hour, but I worked for 5 minutes and I became extremely fatigued." Batty said the fatigue turned into a cancer diagnosis, a rare form of leukemia. "In September I underwent chemotherapy and I was off work totally for four months."
It's their job to run in when you run out, but doing so takes a toll. So when Governor Rick Snyder signed the presumption bill into law last year, Batty was under the assumption that he would be covered as his cancer treatment and lost wages were mounting. We're talking tens of thousands of dollars.
"My cancer was covered under the bill. With the on-the-job injury, I was expecting to get workman's compensation," Batty said.
When he filed his claim, he was denied. So he called the billing department and found out the truth.
"I said the state passed a law back in January. She said, 'Well there is no funding for it so it's really worthless,'" he said.
Funding for the firefighter cancer fund was cut out of the budget last year. For Mark Docherty, the president of the Michigan Firefighter Union, it came as a true surprise.
"We never thought we'd be fighting this fight to get our guys covered," Docherty said. "Since the bill has passed with no funding placed in it, we've had seven firefighters develop cancer and have been left stranded."
After being cut last year, it wasn't included in Snyder's budget for this year either. Gov. Snyder's office said in a statement:
"There are a lot of pressing priorities this year and unfortunately the first responder fund was not able to be included in the Governor's initial recommendations. If the Legislature would like to add this item into the budget, the governor is open to that discussion."
So now Batty, Docherty, and others are asking for the public's help to get it done.
"I do believe we can get there. But we need public support to make sure we get there," Docherty said.
Batty's cancer is in remission and he's back on the job, still fighting for the firefighters of the future.