For the first time, the federal government is now joining the fight to track the connection between fighting fires and cancer.
The Firefighter Cancer Registry Act, recently signed by President Donald Trump, requires the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to develop and maintain a registry. The collection of data will tell the stories behind cancer-stricken firefighters like Kathy Babcock.
"I am a survivor and I battle it every day," she said. After more than two decades battling the flames, breast cancer forced her to retire from the Pasco County Fire Department last summer. Babcock is a third-generation firefighter and third generation to fall victim to cancer.
A federal database is a step in the right direction, she says.
"Now we'll be able to possibly get a clearer picture of the numbers of people in the fire service that are actually battling and losing the battle to cancer," she said.
From age of diagnosis to years on the job, the federal registry will collect key details and is voluntary. The federal registry accompanies an increasing number of states that have laws now in place to help compensate firefighters who are diagnosed with certain kinds of cancers.
Florida remains one of about a dozen states that have yet to pass legislation to help firefighters and their families, whose stories share all too similar details of spending years running into burning buildings, but who couldn't run away from their disease.
"Maybe now they can realize how big of an issue this is," said Kathy Babcock.
A Florida bill that would provide coverage to firefighters and their families has failed to garner enough support in the legislature. However, a bill is expected to be re-introduced next session.