4 firefighters at NY dept. hit with cancer, kidney failure

A benefit will raise money to help cover medical costs not covered by insurance.

OVID, N.Y. — Three members of the Ovid Fire Department are battling cancer. A fourth is awaiting a kidney transplant. The life-threatening illnesses keep them away from many fire department calls and activities, but they’re never far from the Seneca County community’s thoughts.

“You’re worried about them,” said longtime firefighter Roy Evans. “Are they alright? Did they miss the call because they just didn’t feel good? Did something happen?”

“We’re a small community and all that just really hits you pretty hard when it happens,” said Ovid Fire Chief William Palmer.

“These are people that you have to trust with your life,” said Carrie Smalser, one of the organizers of an April 28 benefit for all four.

At 23, Brian Reynolds is the youngest. He, and fellow firefighters Mike Snyder and Gary Covert are all battling cancer. Scott Armitage is 28, and needs a new kidney.

“It takes a toll emotionally, mentally,” said Smalser. “But at the same time we want to see them do well, continue to thrive and beat this.”

Those who organized the benefit say they hope to raise money to cover those things insurance doesn’t — like the hour-plus doctor trips for live-saving treatment, which each man needs several times a week.

When they sign up, firefighters know what they do is dangerous. Still, their chief wonders if those risks had anything to do with what’s happening now.

“Not being medically inclined, when you look at what happens to the paid outfits, we do the same thing,” said Palmer. “So you can only believe it possibly played a role in it.”

Organizers say they’re already received “substantial” donations from the community, and from fire departments all over the state.