John Carney was a respected firefighter served with Midway Fire Rescue for 18 years, rising to the rank of Battalion Chief in the Pawleys Island community.
At age 41, Carney was diagnosed with stage 4 melanoma cancer and after a four-month battle, he died in October 2017. Carney, like many firefighters, battle flames and smoke in burning buildings which may cause cancer-related deaths. This type of issue is what fire crews and residents of Pawleys Island were hoping to prevent during a town hall meeting Nov. 6.
Residents attended the meeting at Holy Cross Faith Memorial Church to support the Legislative Bill 4147, also known as the Presumptive Firefighter Cancer Bill. The bill was introduced in the House in February 2019, offering a way for firefighters who develop cancer to be compensated. Justin Lenker, president of Midway Professional Firefighter Association, introduced the speakers, including Lillian Carney, Josh Carney’s wife; James McGloin, Assistant State Director of Firefighter Cancer Support Network and Bill Pesature of the Professional Fire Fighters Association. According to Lenker, South Carolina is one of the two states that hasn’t passed a bill for protection of firefighters. “We are one of the only states left without cancer repercussions” Lenker said.
Lenker also gave statistics regarding the increase chance of cancer for fire crews due to work exposure to chemical and smoke vapors in handouts from the International Association of Fire Fighters, which said over the past decade, over 60 percent of firefighter in the line of duty deaths were from cancer.
Lillian Carney told of her husband’s battle with cancer. She said after his death, her and their daughter, received no compensation or assistance or recognition.
“That is a burden no family should bear” Carney said.