Hometown Heroes Act signed into law

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(ABC 6 News) — A new law in Minnesota helps to protect Minnesota firefighters.

Governor Tim Walz signed the Hometown Heroes Act into law Monday giving firefighters in the state better healthcare. The Hometown Heroes Assistance Program provides eight million dollars in support for all firefighters including volunteers.

The Minnesota Firefighter Initiative (MnFIRE) helps to administer the program. MnFIRE Executive Director Wayne Kewitsch says this law is an example of how we can protect our local heroes who work every day to protect us.

"It’s a noble profession, it’s the greatest job in the world in my opinion," said Kewitsch. The former Richfield Fire Chief has been fighting fires for nearly 25 years. Kewitsch says he gets a call almost every week that a firefighter from Minnesota is diagnosed with cancer.

"It is very important because for the 20,000 firefighters in Minnesota, approximately 90 percent of them are non-compensated or are paid part-time firefighters so they don’t have access to the benefits that a lot of the career firefighters have to cover cancer, cardiac and emotional trauma," said Kewitsch.

MnFIRE offers critical illness insurance, up to a $20,000 benefit that firefighters can use for medical expenses, peer support for emotional and mental wellness and training across the state.