Spokane firefighter with legacy of protecting firefighters remembered
SPOKANE, Wash. — John Knighten is a name many Spokanites know. He was a firefighter with Spokane’s Fire Department for almost two decades before a multiple myeloma cancer diagnosis ended his journey.
“He was a really good firefighter, a really good F.E.O and a really good person,” said Spokane Fire Chief Brian Schaeffer. “His physical presence isn’t here, but definitely his spiritual presence is still here with us.”
He is remembered as one who loved life and a fighter. When he was diagnosed, he was given a month and a half to live. He battled it out for three and a half years, returning to work when he was able.
“He was just good at everything,” said his daughter, Kasey Knighten. “He loved his job and loved being a firefighter so much.”
This week, John would have celebrated his 50th birthday. He lost his battle with cancer at age 45.
As a group, research shows firefighters face an increased risk of getting cancer as a result of their profession. On a daily basis they are put in environments filled with smoke and other carcinogens.
At the time he died, Knighten’s type of cancer was presumptively covered under state law, and his family was not left without support. Many other cancers are not presumptively covered.
It was a fact that bothered Knighten. He was a strong proponent of increased protection for firefighters.
“So much has changed since his death,” said his widow, Shawna Knighten-Johnston.
She says stations have bettered their decontamination methods and have also increased the amount of equipment they wear into fires, to decrease the risk of cancer to firefighters.
She is also carefully watching a piece of legislation making its way through the Washington state legislature, which would increase presumptive coverage to nine additional cancers.
Her daughter is also following in her fathers footsteps in raising awareness to the unseen dangers firefighters face. She’s going to be doing the Big Climb in up the tallest sky scraper in Seattle. As she tackles the 69 flights of stairs, she’s going to be raising money for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society, which works on blood cancer research. To learn more on how to help click here.
The remembering John Knighten Facebook community can be joined by clicking here.
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