Firefighters from different fields will now have greater access to health care coverage thanks to amendments made to the Workers Compensation Act.

Previously, only urban firefighters could file for presumptive illness claims that included cancer, heart disease, and mental-health disorders.

Now, the range of presumptive illness has been expanded to include wildfire fighters, fire investigators, firefighters working for First Nations, and other Indigenous organizations who usually contend with large and traumatizing blazes.

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“These changes under the Workers Compensation Act are about fairness and support for firefighters – regardless of where they work,” said Harry Bains, Minister of Labour in a statement.

“Whether battling wildfires, structural blazes in First Nations communities or investigating the causes of devastating fires – the work can have serious impacts on a person’s physical and mental health.”

Presumptive illnesses are conditions that are recognized as being caused by one’s work, and do not have to be proven to be job related by an individual.

Wildfire fighters and the others listed were the last to receive expanded presumptive illness support, with other emergency service workers like police officers, paramedics, sheriffs, correctional officers, and most urban firefighters gaining access to it last spring.

“Our wildfire fighters are renowned across the country and around the world for doing a technically challenging and critically important job that involves regular and ongoing exposure to conditions that threaten their physical and mental health,” said Stephanie Smith, president of the BC Government and Service Employees’ Union in a statement.

“That’s why ever since presumptions were expanded a year ago, we’ve been working hard to get wildfire fighters included in the coverage. These changes are excellent news for wildfire fighters who put their health and safety on the line to save lives and property, just like their urban counterparts do every day.”