Fallen Firefighter's Family Demands Action

FAYETTEVILLE, AR. --- The Fayetteville City Council passed a resolution that will help a future bill for the 2015 Arkansas legislation session. The resolution actually supports a bill that State Representative Greg Leding is working on that would create a presumption for firefighters.

The future bill would create a presumption that firefighters who develop certain types of cancers get that disease from their line of work.

Research shows that firefighters have a higher rate of certain types of cancers like respiratory, digestive and urinary cancers. According to the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health, U.S. Firefighters have an excess of Mesothelioma, which is a rare form of cancer. Researchers say Mesothelioma is likely due from exposure to asbestos found in building materials.

Jane Sexton Planchon said her husband, Bud, received his cancer from over two decades of fighting.

"It was a very sudden onset. The testing came back that it was cancer. It was colon cancer that had metastasized to his liver," said Jane. "When he was finally required to retire because of his cancer, he (had served) for 25 years."

Jane saw her husband suffer for five years from a disease she believes he got from fighting fires as a Springdale captain.

"Some of them, like my husband, worked on the hazardous materials team as well. You know they're in meth labs, if there's a hazardous materials spill, they're the ones cleaning it up," said Jane. "You combine that with exposure to known and unknown carcinogens on a repeated basis and there are these certain cancers they are more likely to acquire."

Bud lost his battle with cancer just last month, but during the fight for his life, the Planchon family didn't receive any of Bud's benefits. Those are benefits that would replace college funds that had been depleted to pay for doctor bills. That's something Jane feels isn't fair.

"For 15 months, he was not paid one penny of his retirement money. It needs to be recognized just like any other illness acquired in the line of duty and treated accordingly. We know he died in the line of duty," said Jane.

Help could soon be on the way, thanks in part to a bill State Representative Greg Leding hopes to garner support for. He received that support on Tuesday night from the Fayetteville City Council.

"If the legislation passes, it would help these firefighters and their families get access to benefits that they currently are being denied because the law prevents them from claiming these sicknesses, these cancers that they contracted in the line of duty, as being the reason for those illnesses," said Leding.

This is a bill that Leding was inspired to pursue, thanks to Bud. Jane says Bud was passionate about his work, and that he'd probably not have changed a thing, because he 'loved his job.'

Jane also wants folks to know about this upcoming legislation so that one day, no one else has to suffer.

KNWA did reach out to the Arkansas Municipal League, but our calls were not returned.

The International Association of Firefighters have determined that Bud died in the line of duty. That means Bud's name will be added to the National Firefighters Memorial wall in Colorado Springs on September 20th.

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