Advocates push for bill that would increase support for Minnesota firefighters facing health problems

A group of bipartisan Minnesota lawmakers throws its support behind a measure to help protect Minnesota's firefighters with the Hometown Heroes Act.

The legislation would provide essential services for more than 22,000 firefighters and first responders in the state.

According to state fire officials, firefighters face cancer, cardiac issues and mental health challenges at higher rates than the rest of the population.

In 2013, Jen Frantz's husband, who served as a fire chief, died of a massive heart attack in the line of duty. He was 42 years old at the time.

"I believe that if he were still here, it would have been one of his top priorities to make sure his fellow firefighters were staying healthy, not only in body, but in mind," said Frantz. "And I know he would want to make sure that, for themselves and for their families and fellow firefighters, they had all the support they could get."

The Hometown Heroes Assistance Program would include payments of up to $30,000 for firefighters diagnosed with cancer or heart disease.

Additional counseling would also be made available. The bill has been introduced in both the House and the Senate, but a public hearing has not yet been scheduled.