woman firefighter putting on safety gear

Remembering Mark Noble

Remembering Olympia Firefighter Mark Noble

Mark Noble, a member of Local 468, Olympia, died in 2005 from brain cancer caused by his occupation as a fire fighter. He is remembered as a fighter, mentor and a brother whose story helped our profession pass presumptive cancer legislation for fire fighters in Washington State.

Mark was diagnosed prior to passage of presumptive cancer legislation and was told no further treatment options were available through his health maintenance organization.  During the 2002 Legislative Session, presumptive cancer legislation was the WSCFF’s top priority. Mark was too sick to testify; but his story resonated with political decision makers as treatment options were available, yet his choice in health care plans would not allow him to see a specialist outside his coverage.

The story was common at the time for members diagnosed with terminal cancer.  Everything changed when House Bill 2663 was signed by Governor Gary Locke in 2002.  Mark’s claim for an occupational cancer injury was the first workers’ compensation cancer claim approved, and meant he could seek treatment for his brain cancer as a work-related injury and by the best doctors.

The number of line-of-duty deaths from cancer we see today is staggering. Mark’s story was at the forefront in 2002 when some of our members were impacted by a handful of cancers attributed to not wearing SCBA gear.  He wanted to document his struggle with cancer and implored all fire fighters to take every precaution to prevent exposure to carcinogens on the job. Mark shared his thoughts very simply: “There isn’t an excuse to take off your air pack before your environment is perfectly clear,” Noble said. “If you’re in there and don’t have an air pack on, you are killing yourself. It’s that simple.”

Mark’s story was critical in our struggle to pass presumptive cancer legislation and protect our members.  We share his story here to honor and remember him.