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Arkansas bill pushes to give firefighters more sick leave while battling cancer

(KATV Photo)

An Arkansas lawmaker has filed a bill that would give firefighters more sick leave when battling cancer.

House Bill 1299 was introduced at the State Capitol on Wednesday by state Rep. Nicole Clowney, D-Fayetteville. The proposal comes after the death of Little Rock firefighter Nathaniel Crump, who in 2017 lost his fight against cancer.

The bill has been dubbed "Crump's Law".

"It was so frustrating because that was Nathaniel's one passion and the one thing that kept him going was being a firefighter," Nathaniel's wife Jessica Crump said.

Jessica remembers Nathaniel as a man who loved his job. In 2015 he was diagnosed with cancer and things started going downhill.

"We started treatment," Jessica said. "He started losing some time. He eventually lost all of his sick days while we were in the hospital. We were having to face making decisions of him losing his job and his insurance."

Crump exhausted his sick leave and was forced to return to fighting fires just weeks before he died, Clowney said.

"We've got a gap in Arkansas law and we've got to close it," she said.

Under Arkansas law, according to Clowney, firefighters with cancer are not entitled to any special category of sick leave. Under the bill, they would have one year of sick leave.

While Jessica Crump continues to process the pain of losing her husband, she's still pushing for change in hopes that one day other firefighters won't have to go through what her husband did.

The Arkansas Professional Firefighters Association is currently compiling a bank of firefighters who'd be affected.

A federal bill will soon mandate that the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention keep track of cancer in the fire service.

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