Arizona firefighters asking public to join rally after multiple cancer claim denials

United Goodyear Firefighters put out a public invitation for people to join them at a rally outside Copper Point’s building in Phoenix next week.
Published: Mar. 28, 2023 at 7:56 PM MST
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GOODYEAR (3TV/CBS 5) - After eight years of denied work-related cancer coverage, the first responder community is taking a Goodyear firefighter’s legal battle to the next level by organizing a rally outside the insurance company denying the firefighter’s claim.

It’s attracted the attention of firefighters across the nation, and because of a recent loss, Gilbert Aguirre’s colleagues are helping amplify his voice even more.

In just a couple of weeks, Aguirre’s cancer claim will be back in court, where Copper Point Insurance could choose to accept it or deny it again. Copper Point is the third-party insurance used by the City of Goodyear. But not only is Aguirre’s cancer one that should be covered under state law but he’s also been fighting an even tougher battle behind the scenes that make these stakes even higher.

Their fight has reached a point where “fed up” is an understatement. “It’s a first where we actually have gone this far and going to their doorstep,” said Aguirre. The Goodyear firefighter has been on the job for 23 years and has battled chronic myeloid leukemia since 2015. Leukemia is one of the firefighter cancers that should be covered under state law.

However, Copper Point Insurance has continually denied his cancer claim ever since, despite former governor Doug Ducey expanding the law in 2021 and removing the requirement to prove the cancer was caused by toxins on the job. “He’s gone bankrupt because of this. He’s had to use all of his own sick leave, he can’t retire, he can’t afford the medications to retire,” said United Goodyear Firefighters President Dan Freitag.

It’s why the United Goodyear Firefighters put out a public invitation for people to join them at a rally outside Copper Point’s building in Phoenix next week. “The bottom line is their greed is killing us because Gilbert isn’t fighting for his health. He’s fighting for his rights, and it’s shameful,” said Freitag.

But this time, Aguirre is having to fight this with an even heavier heart. “We’ve gone through a lot as a family,” he said with tears in his eyes. “We’re mourning the loss of my 17-year-old, Gabe,” said Aguirre.

His son was set to graduate high school this May but was killed in a rollover car accident last month. It was a horrific tragedy after Aguirre spent years fighting for his health to stay alive for his three sons. “All that time, I don’t get that time back,” he said.

With his court date looming, Arizona’s Family asked Copper Point where Aguirre’s case stands with them now and their response to the rally. They said in a statement in part:

Now, firefighters from all over are coming to be a part of their cry for change. “I heard today that there’s some firefighters from Hawaii coming to be here,” said Aguirre. “My heart, you know, thanks. I don’t have any other words, just thank you for the love and support,” said Aguirre.

RELATED: Glendale firefighter who died of brain cancer had insurance claim denied

Under state law, brain cancer is presumed to be occupational cancer for firefighters, but officials confirm his claim has not been covered yet.

Long-time Glendale firefighter Mark Fowl died from work-related brain cancer on Dec. 19.

The rally is planned for April 5 at 10:45 a.m. outside Copper Point’s building near Central Avenue and Thomas Road. Aguirre’s next court date is April 11, when he should learn if they accept the case or deny it again.