Protection: First responders deserve care

First responders deserve care

During a press conference Tuesday, West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice applauded the work of local firefighters and other first responders who rushed to the scene of an enormous fire at the former Ames shovel plant, now an IEI Plastics warehouse facility. He said “You’re fighting Godzilla, and you’re doing it with sticks and stones.”

What he meant was that, even with the limited resources available to them, local firefighters did an incredible job of containing and knocking down as much of the fire as they could. With new equipment brought in by a contractor, the job was much faster, of course; but no one had time to wait around for someone else’s equipment when those first on the scene began to tackle the blaze.

No one had time to wait around for tests to determine whether the work they were doing to keep the rest of us safe might be putting the firefighters’ own health in danger. Certainly none of them hesitated at the thought; and for that, the rest of us are more grateful than we can express.

But, on Tuesday, Justice said “there has to be” medical monitoring, long-term for those first responders.

Should further testing determine those folks were, in fact, exposed to hazardous chemicals that would warrant such monitoring, the governor and lawmakers had better make sure they find a way to make it happen.

Firefighters and other first responders do not give a second thought to whether protecting the health and safety of their fellow citizens is the right thing to do. Again, IF, analysis shows long-term medical monitoring is warranted, there can be no second thoughts as to whether we make sure those heroes get it.