Salem firefighter’s widow pushes for workers’ compensation benefits

PORTLAND, Ore. (KGW) — Firefighters from across Oregon are expected to attend a Salem City Council meeting Monday afternoon. They want the city to continue to pay a firefighter’s widow workers’ compensation benefits, but the city wants the payments to stop.

A memorial sits in front of Fire Station 6 in Salem, bearing the name Maurice ‘Mo’ Stadeli.

Stadeli served the people of Salem as a firefighter for 28 years.

“He loved the job, he loved the community, he loved to help people,” said Salem firefighter Matt Brozovich, who’s also the president of Salem Professional Firefighters Local 314.

Brozovich knew Stadeli for many of those years on the job and said he was the type of firefighter who was admired for his composure

“2018 he’d gotten cancer, he got treated, came back in 2019 for a short period of time and then the cancer came back with a vengeance,” Brozovich said.

Tonsillar cancer took Stadeli’s life in 2019, leaving his widow, Tina, with nothing but memories and workers’ compensation benefits granted by the Oregon Appellate Court in 2021.

In September 2023, Stadeli was honored in Colorado Springs and his name was placed on the IAFF Memorial Wall alongside fallen firefighters from across the nation.

“It was a pretty remarkable event, emotional,” Brozovich said.

While Tina was there, she found out the city of Salem was trying to take away the worker’s compensation benefits that she was awarded after her husband’s death.

“The City believes that the Court of Appeals decision misinterpreted Oregon Workers Compensation law, by requiring medical experts to have a level of certainty regarding the cause of some diseases that simply is not possible,” the city of Salem said in a statement.

The city said, after talking with medical experts, they believe “[Stadeli’s] work as a firefighter did not materially contribute to contracting the disease.”

They believe it was unrelated, or preexisting.

In Oregon, firefighters have a cancer presumption. Often when a firefighter contracts cancer, it’s assumed the disease is due to on-the-job hazards.

“There’s a whole bunch of cancers that fall within our job category that say if you get X, Y, Z cancer it’s more than likely from the job or contributed from the job,” Brozovich explained.

Research shows cancer is a leading cause of death among firefighters.

“We want them to leave our widow alone, we want to protect her, we want her to go about her life and try to grieve her husband and it’s just been a tough process for her,” Brozovich said. “Now, I think she just looks at this and goes ‘When’s it going to end’? And I think that’s the biggest worry for us.”

Brozovich said this fight is bigger than Mo and Tina. He’s concerned that if these benefits are taken away, a precedent will be set for future cases.

“Leave her alone, leave the firefighters alone, we have a presumption for a reason,” he said.

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