Picture this: You jolt awake in the middle of the night to the smell of smoke and fire alarm blaring. You see flames overtaking your kitchen as you grab your kids and run out the front door. Within minutes, firefighters are on the scene, saving your home — everything you’ve worked for — from complete destruction.
You can’t comprehend the other scenarios that could have played out. For the first responders, this is a standard day, a familiar call to duty.
Having served as a volunteer firefighter for four years after moving to Wadsworth, I understand the challenges and dangers these men and women encounter in their work. Law enforcement officers and first responders work tirelessly for our communities. It is of the utmost importance we ensure their bravery does not expose them to any unnecessary risks.
Research shows firefighters have a higher rate of many types of cancer than the general population, most likely due to their exposure to asbestos and other chemical fumes as they combat fires.
I am an original co-sponsor on the Firefighter Cancer Registry Act that would require the CDC to develop and maintain a voluntary registry of firefighters with cancer to delineate any relationships between a firefighter's service and their cancer risk. Once equipped with this data, we can develop better protective equipment and cancer prevention techniques for our firefighters.
I am also a co-sponsor of the Volunteer Responder Incentive Protection Act, which will help state and local governments recruit and retain volunteer firefighters.
In 2012, 69 percent of all firefighters were volunteers, according to the National Fire Protection Association. By passing this legislation, Congress would make it easier for communities to recruit and retain people who volunteer to keep us safe.
Just last week I was pleased to see my bipartisan amendment in support of our volunteer firefighters accepted to the FY18 Interior Appropriations Bill. The amendment would increase funding for two federal firefighter grant accounts.
This includes the state fire assistance fund and the volunteer assistance fund to help our communities to be better prepared to help protect our communities.
Last weekend, I was the keynote speaker at the second annual First Responders Appreciation Night in Independence. As I travel across the 16th District, I am routinely reminded of the sacrifices made by these individuals, and it was wonderful to finally have an event to honor those who protect us.
Every day, men and women across our district put their lives on the line to protect our communities and fellow citizens, and some will make the ultimate sacrifice. Our first responders' courage and skills represent the best of who we are as Americans and we must continue to offer them the support and resources they need to answer the call of duty and keep us safe.
Jim Renacci represents Ohio’s 16th District, which includes Wayne County. Follow him at www.facebook.com/?repjimrenacci.