ST PAUL, Minn. — For the first time in history, the state of Minnesota will extend Line of Duty Death benefits to the family of a firefighter who died of cancer.
For years, several types of cancer have been considered occupational diseases for firefighters, due to high cancer rates and exposure to carcinogens on the job. Now, the death of fire captain Mike Paidar, who served both St Paul and Maple Grove, is opening the door for financial support to families of those who have died of cancer while still on the job.
"Even though cancer is a presumptive occupational disease in Minnesota, when it comes to Line of Duty Deaths, it becomes definitive and we have to tie the actual cancer to the firefighting work that we do," said St Paul Fire Captain Dennis Hall, who is also secretary of International Association of Fire Fighters Local 21. "It was very important for Local 21 to follow through on this process, not only for Mike's legacy but for his family also."
The union and the Paidar family had to submit extensive medical and firefighting records, studies linking the number "fire hours" to leukemia mortality, and a statement from Paidar's doctor, to make the case for his designation.
Paidar was just 53 years old and otherwise in excellent health, when he was diagnosed with Acute Myeloid Leukemia in January of 2020. He died just months later, while still on the job.
After more than a year, Public Safety Commissioner John Harrington confirmed the designation in a letter to Mike Paidar's wife, Julie Paidar.
"Having been in law enforcement for nearly 40 years, I understand the dangers facing public safety officers each day," Harrington wrote. "It appears that in your husband's case, the danger was not solely an immediate one. As such, I believe his death falls within the intended definition of 'killed in the line of duty.'"
Local 21 and the Paidar family are now hoping to see Mike's Line of Duty Death lead to a streamlined process for other firefighters and their families facing a similar tragedy.
“Our family is very thankful for Commissioner Harrington’s decision," Julie Paidar wrote, in a statement to KARE11. "Losing Mike has been not only heartbreaking for our friends & family, but also for his brothers & sisters in the fire service. It is our hope that this determination on Mike’s Occupational Cancer sets the precedent for future Line-of-Duty Deaths. Then, something for the greater good will have come out of this heartbreaking situation.”