The name of three firefighters who lost their lives to work-related cancers will be added to the Nevada Firefighters Memorial today
Firefighters Ronald Crews of the Las Vegas Fire Department, Bill Harnedy of the North Las Vegas Fire Department and Engineer Ray Mecham of the Clark County Fire Department all died in 2003 as a result of the effects of the smoke-filled, toxic environments in which firefighters must work, said Steve Frady, historian for the Nevada Firefighters Memorial.
The addition brings the number of Nevada firefighters known to have died in the line of duty to 53. The earliest known line-of-duty death attributed to the effects of smoke-filled toxic environments was Meredith "Riff" WIlliams in 1872.
Williams, who was a member of the Nevada Hook & Ladder Co. No. 1 in Virginia City, died as a result of fighting the Yellow Jacket Mind Fire in 1869.
He qualifies as dying in the line of duty because doctors determined his death resulted from toxic gas and smoke inhalation. His health declined after the fire and he died "in consequence of his being asphyxiated," as the death certificate put it Oct. 30, 1872.
In May 2003, Gov. Kenny Guinn signed into law a bill that gives Nevada firefighters medical coverage for certain forms of cancer considered occupational hazards.
Harnedy, who was suffering from a rare form of kidney cancer related to inhaling carcinogens found in burnt material, put a name and a face to legislation that clarified existing state laws that certain cancers are occupational diseases for professional firefighters.
The ceremony will be held at the Nevada Firefighters Memorial on the east side of Mills Park. Firefighters from across the state will provide an honor guard. Chaplain Ruth Hanusa will provide the invocation.
Following the ceremony a plaque bearing the names of two retired Nevada fire chiefs will be dedicated on the distinguished service section of the memorial.
Retired Sparks Fire Chief Bill Farr and retired Nevada State Forester Lowell "Lody" Smith will be honored for their accomplishments during long careers in fire service.
Farr, a former Washoe County Commissioner and state senator went to work for the Sparks Fire Department in 1947 and served as chief from 1951 to 1976.
Smith spent 35 years with the Nevada Division of Forestry and served as State Forester under four governors ending with Bob Miller.
The Nevada Firefighters Memorial Enrollment of Honorees ceremony always takes place the last Saturday of October during National Fire Prevention week.
IF YOU GO
What: Nevada Firefighters Memorial Ceremony
When: 2 p.m. today
Where: The Nevada Firefighters Memorial on the east side of Mills Park near the Seely Loop entrance.