Difficult discussion

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The Sun Journal’s editorial of Feb. 16 criticized a bill to provide accidental death benefits for firefighters who die of heart attacks. Under the initial bill, the benefit was to be paid “no questions asked” if the death occurred within six months of a firefighter’s having been in service as a professional for a municipal fire department. Under your reasoning, a heart attack is not an accidental death. It could be brought on by poor health habits or even heredity.

As a member of the committee, I proposed a compromise to restrict the “no questions asked” period to 48 hours. For the full six months, a firefighter who died from a heart attack would be “presumed” to have died from a work-related “accident,” but other factors could be considered and challenged.

In my reasoning, 48 hours was key because of an incident in Lewiston where a brave firefighter succumbed to a heart attack within 48 hours of fighting a tough blaze.

The amended bill establishes a rebuttable presumption that if a firefighter develops a cardiovascular disease and dies after 30 days, but within six months of participating in the covered action, the death can be attributed to the firefighting activity.

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This can be a difficult discussion when dealing with those who have fallen in the line of duty to their community but, as a former city councilor, I also recognized my responsibility to protect the taxpayers who must shoulder the financial burden of these costs.

Rep. Bruce Bickford, Auburn

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