The city of Fairburn has terminated a firefighter recovering from cancer he may have contracted on the job.
"I do feel a little bit betrayed by the city," said Jason Trotter, 36, an eight-year veteran of the Fairburn Fire Department. "I know they're within their legal rights but it doesn't seem like the right thing to do."
CBS46 first featured Trotter in its initial report in July on firefighters' increased risk of developing cancer.
Trotter, who claimed to have no family history of cancer, said he eats right, doesn't smoke and works out. He believes he may have gotten sick after responding to a call of a PCP lab explosion last year.
A husband and father of two, Trotter was diagnosed with Hodgkin's lymphoma in January and immediately took a leave from work to undergo months of chemotherapy treatment. The treatment caused lung damage which has delayed doctors from giving Trotter the clearance to return to work.
In an Oct. 17 letter, the city's human resources director David J. Johnson wrote, "it is a hardship for the City to operate the Fire Department with an unfilled position." Johnson continued, "The city has made the decision that it must proceed with filling the position at the end of this month, which means that your employment will end at that time."
It's a far different response than Fire Chief Jody Weller gave CBS46 investigative reporter Jeff Chirico back in July.
In speaking about his support of Trotter at that time, Weller said, "what we need to do is wrap our arms around the family member and just do whatever we need to do to help them."
Weller did not respond to Chirico's request for comment Wednesday.
Trotter will lose his medical insurance, pension and future participation in the retirement program.
Trotter's situation underscores a larger problem facing the Georgia men and women who risk their lives in the fire service.
If a firefighter got hurt on the job, he or she would be eligible for workers' compensation benefits. Those same benefits, however, don't apply to firefighters who develop cancer since medicine isn't able to confirm that a particular incident or exposure caused the illness.
Thirty-three states have cancer presumption laws that provide firefighters in Trotter's situation with workers' compensation. The International Association of Fire Fighters reported those states that have enacted the laws haven't experienced a serious burden on their budgets. California reported a minimal effect on its state retirement system, according to the IAFF.
"This is a law that would protect firefighters from going bankrupt," said Trotter who has contacted lawmakers hoping to convince one to champion a similar law in Georgia.
"We're willing to put our lives on the line and go out there to rescue your family. All we ask is a little respect," said Trotter.
Trotter's friends and fellow firefighters formed The Jason Trotter Foundation to help cover Trotter's medical expenses.
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