Fighting Fires and Cancer Simultaneously: The Life of An Arkansas Firefighter

A bill at the Capitol would give firefighters sick leave to battle cancer… 

House Bill 1299 was introduced at the State Capitol on Wednesday by state Rep. Nicole Clowney, D-Fayetteville. The proposal comes after the death of Little Rock firefighter Nathaniel Crump, who in 2017 lost his fight against cancer.

The bill has been dubbed “Crump’s Law” in honor of a fallen hero.




Through investigations and fundraisers, THV11 has found startling numbers regarding firefighters battling cancer. Now, an Arkansas Representative is working to protect firefighters who are still serving their communities after developing the disease. Currently, Arkansas provides benefits for firefighters who die from cancers known to be caused by the job. But, those laws have shed light on the issue that there is no help for firefighters who are battling the disease and working. Firefighters said there are things more frightening then entering burning buildings.

“Double the risk for mesothelioma, double the risk for testicular cancer, you know the increased risk for skin, urinary, bladder, colon, prostate, thyroid. And it makes sense because we go into these hazardous, carcinogenic environments,” Arkansas Professional Fire Fighters Political Director Matthew Stallings said. Read more of Vanessa Paige’s coverage at the THV11 website >>>


A Fayetteville lawmaker is proposing a law that would provide more sick leave to Arkansas firefighters who have cancer. Arkansas law doesn’t protect firefighters who are dealing with the catastrophic effects of cancer while still serving, but new legislation is pushing to authorize cancer-related sick leave. On Wednesday morning, January 30, Representative Nicole Clowney (D-AR) introduced House Bill 1299, or Crump’s Law, named after a fallen firefighter who exhausted his sick leave and was forced to return to work in the weeks before dying of cancer.

“This would provide them up to one year over the course of their service of their leave to receive treatments,” Clowney said. After more than two decades of fighting fires for the Springdale Fire Department, the sacrifices Bud Planchon made concerning his health caught up with him, according to his wife Jane Sexton Planchon. Read more of Kelly O’Neill’s coverage at KNWA’s website >>>


“It was so frustrating because that was Nathaniel’s one passion and the one thing that kept him going was being a firefighter,” Nathaniel’s wife Jessica Crump said. Jessica remembers Nathaniel as a man who loved his job. In 2015 he was diagnosed with cancer and things started going downhill. “We started treatment,” Jessica said. “He started losing some time. He eventually lost all of his sick days while we were in the hospital. We were having to face making decisions of him losing his job and his insurance.” Crump exhausted his sick leave and was forced to return to fighting fires just weeks before he died, Clowney said. “We’ve got a gap in Arkansas law and we’ve got to close it,” she said. Read more at KATV’s website >>>


“If a firefighter dies from one of these cancers he’s acquired while fighting a fire we will provide for him but if he remains disabled from that cancer and successfully fights if we don’t provide for him under current Arkansas law,” says Nicole Clowney, (Rep. Dist. 86-Fayetteville). Rep. Clowney says right now they’re continuing to have conversations with stakeholders but eventually, the bill will run in committee. Read more at KARK’s website >>> 


“Firefighting raises the risks of contracting certain types of cancer. The science is clear,” Clowney said. “They have our backs in times of crisis, and it’s time for us to have theirs.”

Clowney’s bill provides for 2,912 hours of sick leave, which covers a year’s worth of 24-hour shifts, according to Matthew Stallings, the political director for Arkansas Professional Fire Fighters, Local 34. “Cancer leave,” as defined by the bill, would cover leukemia, lymphoma, mesothelioma, multiple myeloma and 10 different types of cancer. According to the First Responder Center for Excellence, a nonprofit based in Maryland, 33 states provide cancer benefits to firefighters through worker’s compensation laws. Arkansas, however, allows only the award of a one-time death benefit to the firefighter’s family, according to the center.

Clowney said that creates a “gap” under the law in which firefighters who are disabled because of cancer cannot get benefits and — as in Crump’s circumstance — can force firefighters to return to work while sick. “Our firefighters deserve better,” Clowney said. “Nathaniel Crump deserved better.” Read more of John Moritz’s article in the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette >>>


In the press conference, Clowney said fighting fires raises the risk of contracting certain types of cancers. Stallings spoke about the need for support from the communities they serve.

“We put our life on the line every day and fully accept the risks it brings,” Stallings said. “The hazards we face include being exposed to cancer-causing elements. Firefighters are asking for a little relief, so that we can fight cancer when it hits. I believe we can come together for our firefighters.” Clowney said current Arkansas law provides for a firefighter who dies from a cancer he contracted by fighting fires. But the law does not provide for a firefighter who is disabled by that same cancer. Read more coverage at KAIT’s website >>>