A Denver firefighter’s time spent as a volunteer firefighter and as a trainee at fire academy counts toward his total years of service under Colorado’s workers compensation cancer presumption statute, the Colorado Court of Appeals ruled Thursday.
Russell Andrews of the Denver Fire Department was diagnosed with chronic myelogenous leukemia in February 2010, according to court records. He filed for workers compensation under a portion of Colorado’s comp law that considers cancer of the brain, skin, digestive system, hematological system or genitourinary system to be occupational diseases for firefighters with five or more years of employment.
The city of Denver argued that Mr. Andrews didn’t have at least five years of service and, therefore, should not be entitled to the presumption of compensability, records show. That claim was based on Mr. Andrews being sworn in as a firefighter in February 2005 and the onset of his cancer symptoms in November 2009.
An administrative law judge and the Industrial Claim Appeals Office disagreed, records show. Those rulings noted that Mr. Andrews had four years as a as volunteer firefighter and emergency medical technician for the Elbert Fire Protection District, as well as 17 weeks of training at the Rocky Mountain Fire Academy — all of which, the rulings said, should count toward Mr. Andrews’ time as a firefighter.
In a unanimous decision, the three-judge panel of the Colorado Court of Appeals ruled Mr. Andrews was entitled to the presumption of compensability and awarded medical benefits and temporary and permanent disability benefits.
“We agree with the (Industrial Claim Appeals Office) that length of firefighting service … should begin to run from the date on which a volunteer firefighter fights his or her first actual or training fire,” the court stated in its opinion.