DES MOINES, Iowa -- Battling flames and smoke is part of the danger of being a firefighter, but there are other dangers, one of which cost a Des Moines firefighter his life.
Kirk Pederson spent 15 years as a member of the Des Moines Fire Department. He lost his battle with invasive cancer Monday afternoon. To honor him, fire stations across Des Moines will fly their flags at half staff for the next month.
Family spokesman Dan Lamb said Peterson was a fitness buff who never smoked.
"Didn't smoke in his life and was running on the treadmill one day -- had some chest pains, went to the doctor and they found cancer," said Lamb.
Pederson leaves behind a family with more than standard benefits thanks to the cancer presumption bill signed by Gov. Chet Culver in May of 2009.
Lamb said the cancer was determined to be the result of Pederson's job, which means his death is considered to be in the line of duty.
"The smoke gets in your clothes. We bring that right back to the fire station. We don't wear SCBA's (self-contained breathing apparatus) all the time. We try to clean up as best we can afterward, but we smell and breathe that for a long time after the fire," said Lamb.
Pederson's family will receive 60 percent of his salary as opposed to 50 percent because the death was considered job related. They will also receive a $7,500 government-funded benefit for a line of duty death along with a $10,000 accidental death benefit from the city of Des Moines.
"In this situation it was very important, Kirk leaves behind a wife and three children," said Lamb.
The new law is comfort to those who in a dangerous line of work don't know how the job will impact their health long term.
"We go out of our way to make sure we are safe, but there are some things we can't eliminate totally," said Lamb.
Funeral services for Peterson are Friday at 10 a.m. at the Johnston High School gym. A visitation is scheduled for Thursday from 3-8 p.m. at the Merle Hay Funeral Home at 4400 Merle Hay Road.
The funeral procession will pass fire station's 9 and 7 before getting on Interstate 235 to a cemetery in Grinnell.
Family said it's been a rough month for Pederson's parents who about a week ago also buried their daughter.
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