Great Falls City Firefighter Jason Baker lost his battle with Stage IV lung cancer Wednesday morning. His friend and fellow firefighter, David Van Son, remembers Baker, an 18-year-veteran of the city’s fire fighting team, as not only a terrific firefighter, but an all-around great man.
The 45-year-old Baker, a non-smoker and otherwise the picture of fitness, was diagnosed with cancer in 2016. His illness was never connected to any one specific event or cause, but Van Son, the President of the City of Great Falls Fire Fighters IAFF Local 8 says one thing is certain, “Firefighters are getting sick.”
Van Son says research is showing that even though firefighters’ lungs are protected by state-of-the-art respiratory gear, burning fumes and toxins are, “Absorbing into our skin. Unfortunately (Baker) was one of the ones who those toxins ended up affecting.”
But Montana is one of three states where firefighters aren’t covered for job-related illnesses including cancer and various cardiopulmonary diseases. Before he died, Jason Baker was an outspoken supporter of Senate Bill 160 - the Montana Firefighter Health and Safety bill - currently before the Montana Legislature.