TUCSON, Ariz. (KOLD News 13) - The men and women who rush towards danger; battling fires to keep residents safe, really put it all on the line. Sometimes, the price they pay physically and financially is steep.
That’s why the Southern Arizona Disabled Firefighters Foundation (SADFF) is trying to lighten the load. The group was created more than 14 years ago in honor of a retired Tucson firefighter.
“Captain Mark Paris was a firefighter with Tucson Fire Department who came down with carcinosis,” said Andy Stead, a SADFF Coordinator. “It’s an autoimmune disease and pretty much it’s almost like reverse aids. Marks immune system has begun attacking his body and so it attacks his major organs.”
After 20 years of service, Paris had to hang up his hat.
Sunday evening, the inaugural “First Responder Music Fest” was held at Hotel Congress for Paris and others like him. Paris was not feeling well enough to attend. Organizers say he has cancer, his diabetes has worsened, and he needs a wheelchair to get around.
Paris has not been able to prove his condition was caused by his line of work.
“The guys on the fire department in Tucson and southern Arizona, they are out there, they are putting their lives on the line,” said Stead. “We are exposed to new carcinogens, cancers.”
Retired Tucson Fire Captain, Frank Granados, knows what it’s like to bear the marks of service. “I’ve had four knee surgeries, two back surgeries, burns and it was time for me to leave,” he said. “It wasn’t safe for me on fire grounds any longer.”
Granados lives with scars but not regret.
“You go to a call and you leave the call -- no matter what it is, finger cut, house fire, heart attack -- you always leave it better than what you found it,” said Granados.
According to Granados, Paris feels the same way.
“It saddens me to know what [Paris] is going through but I know he wouldn’t change it for the world,” said Granados. “He wouldn’t change anything he has going on … not to do what he did in his career.”
So far, the SADFF has raised nearly half a million dollars to help Paris keep his home and pay his medical bills. The Foundation also offers assistance to any first responder in need.
“We are kind of there to help the heroes who help the people of Tucson and southern Arizona,” said Stead.
To find out how you can help, visit SADFF’s website.