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Severe pain while on assignment leads Utah wildland firefighter to cancer diagnosis

Posted at 9:14 PM, Sep 06, 2021
and last updated 2021-09-07 11:59:52-04

SALT LAKE COUNTY — A Utah veteran wildland firefighter has begun chemotherapy after a sudden cancer diagnosis a few weeks ago.

Ben Hodges has been a seasonal wildland firefighter for the last decade and currently works on the Unified Fire Authority Salt Lake 1 (Type 2IA/Type 1 trainee) hand crew. Hodges was working on the Chin Fire in Nevada in July when he started experiencing severe pain.

“[Hodges] came up to me and said, 'I’ve got some pain in my side,'” said Jeff Taylor, a fellow wildland firefighter with Salt Lake 1 and the team's designated EMT. “Unfortunately, he got to the hospital and it's cancer.”

Taylor, along with those who started a GoFundMe account for Hodges, notes that he doesn’t qualify for health coverage.

“This job comes with a lot of risk and a lot of exposure and a lot of sacrifice, and I don’t think it’s too much to say wildland firefighters deserve healthcare,” said Taylor.

Hodges' cancer was diagnosed as stage 3 testicular cancer. At the end of August, he began chemotherapy.

The GoFundMe account outlines the financial concern for Ben’s treatment:

“Unfortunately, even though he has been dedicated to this career for a decade, he does not qualify for health coverage benefits as a "seasonal" employee and will therefore have to pay for all of his treatment out of pocket. At the hourly rate he is contracted for, it would take a lifetime to pay back the medical debts. We are starting this fund to help him offset that cost and to help him return to the important work that he loves so much, next fire season.”

As of September 6, 2021, Salt Lake 1 had been assigned to the River Complex in Northern California.