CLAY COUNTY, Fla. – Hundreds of people gathered Saturday in Fleming Island to pay their respects to Clay County Fire and Rescue Engineer Jeremy McKay, who served at Fire Station 24 for more than a decade.
The 45-year-old father of three died in November after a battle with cancer. His wife Tanya McKay told News4Jax in 2018 that her husband had Stage 4 Adenocarcinoma, a cancer that forms in mucus-secreting glands throughout the body.
Beneath a large American flag draped from two fire engine ladders, a procession of people gathered to remember McKay at Hibernia Baptist Church.
“Jeremy was, and I said it, lived a life of service to his country. He was a marine. To his family, he had a wife and three children, and to Clay County, he was with the county for 14 years,” said Chief Lorin Mock with Clay County Fire Rescue.
Mock said McKay was selfless with his service.
“It’s now one of the first cancer presumptions that makes it a line of duty death,” he said.
Mock said that’s significant.
“The way we recognize and honor his memory, it to kind of take some sustenance from what he provided, because he was very involved with cancer presumptive legislation and preventative at the station to reduce the risk of firefighters to cancer,” Mock said. “Over the course of the last 60 years, we have discovered all the synthetic materials that come into our homes and work places, when they catch fire, and they naturally are going to, they release toxic smoke that has carcinogens in it.”
“What we are now starting to realize: The amount of the carcinogens that stay on the protective equipment of those firefighters and also onto any exposed skin areas,” he continued.
The real challenge is how to reduce the risk. Mock said by changing practices and protocols will save firefighters lives in the future.