PHOENIX – Four Phoenix-area firefighters who died of job-related cancer last year will be among those remembered during a nationwide tribute this weekend.
On Sunday morning, the National Fallen Firefighters Foundation’s production of America’s Tribute to Fallen Firefighters will honor the lives of 82 firefighters who died in the line of duty in 2019 and 21 who died in previous years.
Goodyear firefighter Austin Peck, Phoenix firefighters Brian Beck and Rick Telles and Mesa firefighter Nikki Sullivan will be included in the tribute, which starts at 7 a.m.
In a normal year, the events take place in Emmitsburg, Maryland, the location of the National Fallen Firefighters Memorial.
In June, NFFF announced that the annual memorial would be postponed due to the challenges of planning a large, in-person event during the uncertainties of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Sunday’s 45-minute tribute will be available to watch at the foundation’s website. A collection of stories about fire heroes can be read within the 2020 Roll of Honor, submitted by families, friends and fellow firefighters.
Cody Peck, Austin’s brother, said the memorial is “super important to our family.”
“When you hear his name, you’re going to remember cancer,” he said. “But we want it to be not when you think of cancer and how horrible it is and how it crushes lives, but what’s being done to help these guys in the future.”
Since Austin Peck was diagnosed with a rare sinus nasal cancer in 2015, his family members have dedicated their time to spreading awareness about cancer in the fire service, how to prevent it, and how to create legislation to protect health benefits if firefighters do contract occupational cancer.
Peck died in 2019 with no health insurance and zero compensation from the city of Goodyear. He served the city as a firefighter for nearly 12 years. After the city denied him workers’ compensation, his family was left with close to $500,000 in medical expenses.
“We’re still fighting as hard, if not harder than when Austin was alive,” Cody Peck said. “We’re not in it to save Austin’s life anymore – it’s more about saving the lives of all these other guys.”
Legislation was introduced last year in Arizona to close loopholes from previous legislation passed that allowed cities to deny firefighters their benefits when battling cancer from the job. Due to COVID-19, the legislative session was upended and the legislative “fix” was never passed.