Fallen firefighter who died following battle with cancer laid to - CBS46 News

Fallen firefighter who died following battle with cancer laid to rest

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Frank Martinez (Source: Atlanta Fire Department) Frank Martinez (Source: Atlanta Fire Department)

An Atlanta fireman who passed away after a two year battle with stage 4 colon cancer was laid to rest Friday.

Frank Martinez, a six-year veteran of the Atlanta Fire Department died early Tuesday morning. He requested to stay his final days at his Forsyth home. 

He leaves behind a wife and two sons.

Firefighters from across the country were on hand for Martinez's funeral, which took place Friday morning inside the Cathedral of Christ the King Catholic Church at 2699 Peachtree Road in Atlanta.

Back in November, He was escorted from Cancer Treatment Centers of America in Newnan to his home in Forsyth County. It was where he spent his final days.

Fellow firefighters gathered on bridges and overpasses over the interstate to salute him as his convoy drove by.

“We are out here to pay our respects to our brother… that has terminal cancer,” Chief David Bloodworth of the Hapeville Fire Department told CBS46.

At the Sylvan Road Bridge over I-85, firefighters waited for more than an hour just for a quick glimpse of Martinez’s ambulance.

“It’s a respect thing. We want him to know that we care and we stand behind him. It is just a brotherhood, it is what we do,” Bloodworth added.

With his remaining strength, Martinez gave a small wave from his stretcher to the brothers by his side and to a large crowd as he left the hospital. After fighting fires for 15 years, for the last two years the 45-year-old father of two had been fighting stage 4 colon cancer.

“We are seeing more and more firefighters from across the nation with different forms of cancer… the products of combustion that are involved in house fires, commercial fires, they are much more toxic now than they ever have been,” explained CBS46 Public Safety Analyst Mike Brooks.

Martinez spoke to CBS46 at the State Capitol in February 2016 as he was advocating for House Bill 216, which would have guaranteed benefits for firefighters with job-related cancers.

HB216 was vetoed by the Governor Nathan Deal, who listed a number of reasons. His full statement is below. Firefighters, including Martinez, said it would not be an end to their fight.

"It may not come around to help me in time, but if I can do something to where the next guy in line after me is able to get help, maintain a job, then I’ll be pretty happy with that,” Martinez shared.

Governor Deal statement on veto of HB216

HB 216 expands the eligibility for workers’ compensation benefits to firefighters diagnosed with cancer, allowing such benefits for any firefighter in Georgia if a medical expert can prove by a preponderance of the evidence that the cancer was caused from exposure to any risk factor while performing work related duties. Firefighters play an integral role in keeping Georgians safe, their unselfish everyday sacrifice does not go unnoticed by this office and they will continue to have my support. However, while the authors’ intent of this bill is respected, I am concerned that codifying an exception for one occupation at this relatively low standard of proof with no time limitation on diagnosis or restriction on eligible types of cancer is a broad solution for a problem not yet abundantly demonstrated in Georgia. The Association County Commissioners of Georgia have also expressed concern that the shift in this burden of proof may potentially lead to tremendous uncertainty in projecting the future financial liability for workers’ compensation. Similarly, the Georgia Municipal Association is concerned that HB 216 makes no distinction between paid and volunteer firefighters. Paid employees are automatically granted workers’ compensation coverage, while cities and counties must affirmatively vote to include volunteer firefighters in their coverage. Finally, since I took office, I am unaware of any firefighter that has filed a workers’ compensation claim for a cancer diagnosis. Signing this bill into law has the potential to exhaust our State Board of Workers’ Compensation and our state judicial system with litigation at the expense of our cities and counties. For these reasons, I VETO HB 216. 

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