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Texas Firefighter Dies From Cancer Before Workers' Comp Claim is Resolved

Dec. 11--BEDFORD -- After a nearly four-year battle with colon cancer and a legal fight to win workers' compensation benefits, veteran Bedford firefighter Lt. Keith Long died Thursday.

Mr. Long, 53, was a Bedford firefighter for 24 years, often working between cancer treatments, his colleagues said.

"Keith was very much the backbone of this organization," said Sean Fay, who was recently hired as Bedford's fire chief. "He represented all that was strong in our department. He will have a very lasting legacy here."

Fay said he met Mr. Long in 1991 when they attended the fire academy in Frisco.

"Keith was a strong presence wherever he was, and he was someone who had a strong influence on me earlier in my life," Fay said.

Chris Conner, president of the Bedford Professional Fire Fighters Association, said Mr. Long was deeply respected by other firefighters. "Keith did his job," Conner said. "He cared for people. Keith bent over backwards for everybody."

Mr. Long was born Oct. 12, 1963, in Fort Worth. He grew up in Southlake, graduated from Carroll High School and then chose firefighting as his career.

Mr. Long became a Bedford firefighter in February 1991.

In January 2013, he felt sharp pains in his side. He was diagnosed with stage 4 colon cancer, which spread to his liver and lungs.

He then began his struggle to get workers' compensation benefits, arguing that his cancer was caused by exposure to smoke, fumes and other carcinogens while on the job.

The Texas Municipal League Intergovernmental Risk Pool, which oversees workers' compensation insurance for Bedford, denied his request, stating that colon cancer was not on the guiding list of illnesses caused by fighting fires.

An administrative law judge ruled that Mr. Long could receive his benefits, but the risk pool appealed the decision. The appeal is still pending.

Kay Goggin, an attorney who represented Mr. Long, said the risk pool was required to pay the benefits after the judge's ruling. The appeal concerns a legal question of whether the cancer was caused by the carcinogens Mr. Long was exposed to while on the job.

The case could be decided by the Texas Supreme Court, Goggin said.

Survivors include his wife, Paula Long; a daughter, Delani Long; and a son, Chase Long, all of Chico.

Elizabeth Campbell: 817-390-7696, @fwstliz

Copyright 2016 - Fort Worth Star-Telegram

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