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Bill could allow firefighters to retire sooner, live healthier

A bill headed to committee Wednesday is expected to benefit police and firefighters in Indiana. It would lower the age of retirement and reduce the years of service required to receive benefits.

Posted: Jan. 16, 2018 5:41 PM
Updated: Jan. 16, 2018 6:23 PM

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. (WLFI) — A bill headed to committee Wednesday is expected to benefit police and firefighters in Indiana.

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It would lower the age of retirement and reduce the years of service required to receive benefits.

Here's why local firefighters say it's needed.

"Firefighters are dying a lot sooner in retirement," said Trent Richter, Lafayette's 472 Firefighter Union President.

The effects of firefighting last much longer than the flames.

"We have a 14 percent higher rate of cancer than any other profession," said Richter.

It's not just from smoke inhalation, it's from contaminants released by burning items inside. It's pretty difficult to avoid.

"When we wash the outside after a fire all of the contaminants get off the outside but they still sit on the inside, this is what's getting into your body," said Richter.

They're trying to take preventative measures, like doubling up on protective hoods.

"Wipe your face down with baby wipes. Get all of the contaminants off your face, get it out of your nose, get it off of your skin because that's what's causing all of these cancers," said Richter.

Richter says retiring early could help. He's in favor of a bill that would lower the age of retirement from 52 to 50 and reduce the maximum number of years of service for benefits from 32 to 28.

"Sure, I am in support of it. But I also want to make sure that the new guys coming on, guys we hire tomorrow, next year, five years from now, they also have that pension," said Richter.

Richter is a fan of the pension system in Indiana. "It doesn't come from the state coffers. It comes from our paychecks," he said.

He says it works because they all retire at the same level.

"We all pay what a back end guy makes. Even the chief retires at what a back end guy makes," said Richter.

Richter hopes this bill will not only allow firefighters with 28 years of service to retire, but also to go home "Cancer free."

The bill will be heard tomorrow morning in the Pensions and Labor committee. Senator Ron Alting is a co-sponsor.

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