Widow speaks out after TN bill passed in honor of fallen firefighter

Published: May. 26, 2020 at 11:48 PM EDT
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A story of dedication lights one widow's memory every day.

"Very genuine. Very real. Cared very passionately about others and the fire service," Dawn Brady said.

That's how Dawn remembers her late husband, Barry Brady, a man who she said put his life on the line running into burning buildings for three decades with the Sparta Fire Department.

Though, there was one battle his body couldn't beat.

"By the time it was no ignoring it anymore, we just found out too late. But, he fought a great battle for 14 months and there are a lot of things he would have done different. He said that," Dawn said.

Barry died in 2019 from colon cancer. Since 2002, almost two out of every three firefighters, who have died in the line of duty, died of cancer. That's according to the International Association of Fire Fighters.

"Years ago there was a stigma in the fire service that the blacker your gear was, the more chard it was- it was a badge of honor. You could really prove to the guys that you can really do the work and now it's just the opposite," Rural Metro spokesperson Jeff Bagwell said.

Other experts also have said outdated and dangerous work practices are exposing firefighters to several forms of cancers, like colon.

"So, what happens is, when we get hot, our skin pores naturally open as a means, (for the body) to cool itself. So, when they open what happens is they also absorb anything that's around them," Bagwell said.

Non-Hodgkin's lymphoma, skin cancer, and multiple myeloma are also included.

"The first thing firefighters do--when they come out of a fire is they take their hood off and put it right here (on the neck). And, it's all bunched up around their head. So, then all of those skin pores are open, so are all the cancer particulate that rides against their skin," Bagwell said.

This reality was so alarming, departments are starting to turn to specially designed gear. Plus, state lawmakers had to step in. When they did, they had Barry's daily sacrifice in mind. They unanimously passed the Barry Brady Act a month after he died.

"This was his baby. This is what he was most proud of," Dawn said.

With this law, fighter fighters with at least five years of experience will be compensated if they're hurt or die of specific cancers developed on the job. They also have to keep up with annual physicals, checking for those diseases.

It's not a preventative plan, but it's a relief.

"It just meant a lot to both of us, and my husband was very excited for a cancer bill being passed. Even before he was ever diagnosed with cancer, it was very important for his brother's and sister's to be taken care of," Dawn said.

To read more on the bill, click


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