FIREFIGHTERS diagnosed with cancer will be covered for compensation under changes announced by the State Government yesterday.
The move will cover experienced rural firefighters against 12 types of cancer, which would be presumed to be from inhaling smoke and fumes.
The Glen Rural Fire Brigade secretary John Skinner said the new legislation would be welcomed by everyone who put their lives on the line to battle fires.
Mr Skinner said the risk of inhaling toxic fumes from a blaze was a real threat for Southern Downs firefighters.
"This is a move that firefighters have been asking for for quite some time," he said.
"Some of the fires we go to, especially to those involving trucks on the highway, we just don't know what is inside them and we have come across chemicals.
"We also get fires in the scrub that run across old chemical dumps or other toxic materials that have been dumped in the scrub and we don't know what damage that has caused."
Mr Skinner said the legislation would be one less burden for rural crews to carry while out in the field.
"It gives us more confidence, knowing they have promised to take care of us if we are affected by one of these things," he said.
"It is all volunteer work and we need to look after our volunteers; whether they are firefighters, members of the show society or someone helping out at the Apple and Grape."
Although firefighters must have served for a substantial amount of time before being able to claim the new compensation - the exact amount of which has not been finalised yet - Mr Skinner said it only took one bad incident for someone to be affected.
"We volunteer to go there and a man on his first day and first fire could come across a fire that warms up an old chemical spill," he said. "I have been doing this for 12 years and I have never come across anything like it but someone else could see it on their first day.
"The biggest risk for us in this area is getting isolated in a fire - chemicals are not a major concern to us at this stage but it could happen.
"It's like insurance - you hope you never have to use it but it is good to know that it is there if you do."
Premier Campbell Newman said the legislation meant firefighters would be entitled to compensation if they suffered certain work-related diseases.
"Everyday thousands of firefighters work to protect their community and under this LNP government's new laws, if a firefighter who serves their community contracts a life-threatening cancer, we will support them," Mr Newman said.
United Firefighters Union Queensland secretary John Oliver said he expected for some cancers, firefighters would have to have served for at least five years, while for others it would be up to a decade.
Rural Fire Brigades Association general manager Justin Choveaux said the legislation ensured volunteer firefighters would receive the same benefits as professionals.
"Rural Fire Brigade volunteers across Queensland feel that this landmark legislation both recognises and acknowledges the commitment that they make to defending Queensland," he said.
- Additional reporting by APN Newsdesk