OCALA, Fla. – The fire service community came together on Thursday to honor Florida’s fallen firefighters.
A memorial service was held at Florida State Fire College to recognize the dedication of 18 firefighters who lost their lives.
The service came after it was delayed because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
State Fire Marshal Jimmy Patronis delivered remarks during the ceremony.
“As important as this is to honor the lives of those we lost, it’s also (important) to honor those families and let them know how much we appreciate the sacrifice they make, too,” he said.
One of the family members in attendance was Christy Siena. Her husband, Eric, died in May after a five-month battle with brain cancer.
“He was a great man, and this is a very honoring experience,” Siena said. “He loved the community that he served and the brothers that he worked with.”
Siena’s cancer death benefit was approved through SB 426, which covers 21 types of cancer for full-time firefighters who served with their agencies for at least five years.
The legislation was passed after News 6 shared stories of Florida firefighters diagnosed with cancer who weren’t able to collect benefits.
“(We worked) with them to help bring awareness to the situation with the way the law is written and how it’s hard to get the coverage,” Siena said.
While some benefits have been covered, there are firefighters suffering from other forms of cancer who have had their benefits denied.
Siena said she’s continuing to push for expanded coverage to honor her husband’s legacy and those of his fallen brothers.
“We need to get policies in place so we don’t have to fight so other widows won’t have to go through what I had to go through,” she said.