The families of Iowa volunteer firefighters and E-M-Ts who die on the job will have an easier time getting death benefits as a result of a bill the governor’s signed into law. The death of a volunteer with the Oran Fire Department prompted the legislation. Forty-nine-year-old Jim Richards of Fairbank died last October. His wife, Jean, says Jim had been fighting a fire for about an hour when he suffered the heart attack and died. State officials have denied the workers’ compensation claim since Jim died of a heart attack. Jean’s hoping either federal workers’ comp or other insurance benefits will be paid. Jean says she always feels that if you work hard and pray a lot, there’s always hope. The new state law says volunteer fire fighters who suffer a heart attack or stroke while working a fire scene — or within the following 24 hours — are eligible for up to 100-thousand dollars in workers’ comp death benefits. The new law, though, does not apply to the Richards family. Representative David Lalk of Westgate lives near the family, and authored the bill. Lalk attended the visitation for Richards, and Jean says she told her legislator that if he couldn’t help her family with a law change, he’d be doing it for somebody else and “I thank him,” she says, tearfully.
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