NEW YORK CITY (WABC) -- Firefighters are dying from September 11th related illnesses at such an increased rate that the number of department deaths will soon surpass those killed 21 years ago at the World Trade Center.
"We lost 30 in the last year, over 300 post 9/11 deaths," FDNY-Firefighters Association President Andrew Ansbro said. "In the last week of the summer, we had a funeral every single day of the week for members that had passed from 9/11-related cancers."
The fire union officials spoke next to the World Trade Center site Friday, calling for increased funding of the James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act. They also called out politicians who they say speak out only on the September 11th anniversary.
"If they are going to be prepared to talk about it on Sunday, we expect them to be prepared to vote on it when it comes to the floor," Ansbro said.
They said nearly 300 firefighters have died of 9/11-related illnesses since the attacks, but they suspect there are more.
"There are dozens of members that I know of personally that were here, they were retired, they came back to work, and they passed," Ansbro said. "They are not officially recognized. But the number is well over 300."
The FDNY says 37 FDNY members died of September 11-related illness last year, bringing the total ever closer to the 343 firefighters who died on 9/11.
"Due to the fact that we lost about 3% of the fire department in one hour, 343 members, it's taken 21 years to get where we are now," Ansbro said. "Unfortunately, we do expect to pass 343 if not next year, the year after that. But it's not a milestone we are looking forward to. But we understand it's inevitable."
Of the 2,753 victims of the attack on the World Trade Center, 40% still have not been formally identified 21 years later, according to the New York City Office of the Chief Medical Examiner.
In the past year, despite ongoing DNA testing, OCME did not make any new identifications.