HARRISON, Ark. (KY3) – Former Captain and fire inspector Jim McCammon gave decades of his life to save others.
And he made an impact on so many people’s lives.
“I was a year in, and he started seeing that I had an interest in code enforcement and fire inspections, and he drug me around everywhere to go to classes,” said Harrison Fire Chief Marc Lowery.
McCammon died at age 64 on May 12. Firefighters, family, and friends honored him with a final salute in Harrison on Monday.
Lowery said he’ll miss his mentor.
“He was always checking in on me and seeing how things were going at the department,” Lowery said. “That’s the part I’ll miss: seeing and visiting with him.”
Just a few years after McCammon retired from the department in 2007, he was diagnosed with cancer.
“2012 kidney cancer, 2016 liver cancer, 2018 lung cancer, and now they have found it’s moving to my lymph nodes,” McCammon said in a past interview.
He believed the cancer was linked to the job.
“That’s probably the leading cause of all the cancers is the chemicals that are produced from the fire that you inhale after the fire,” McCammon had said.
McCammon explained technology changed over the years to help prevent that, but there’s no legislation that would help firefighters in his situation.
Arkansas gives a financial death benefit to families of firefighters diagnosed with cancer after the firefighter passes away.
But McCammon was diagnosed too many years after he retired so even his family will receive no help from the state.
His wife Mollie hopes her husband’s story will inspire lawmakers to take action to help people like him.
“We retire expecting to enjoy the rest of our lives and doing things he liked: his floating and his bicycling and all that stuff he’d done. But instead Jim had to fight it, and that’s the sad part of it. It got him and he had to fight that literally from retirement,” Lowery said.
But when I asked McCammon months ago if there was anything he regretted about firefighting because he believes it contributed to his cancer, he said he didn’t regret any of it.
A bill did recently pass in Arkansas that provides sick leave to firefighters diagnosed with cancer. But still, nothing that would’ve helped heroes like McCammon or his family.