FAYETTEVILLE, N.C. (WNCN) — A Fayetteville firefighter’s death from cancer could be considered as a death in the line of duty.

Fayetteville Fire Battalion Chief John Bowen died in April 2022 following a battle with colon and small intestine cancer.

The 35-year-old battalion chief had been a firefighter since he was 16-years-old. Bowen started as a volunteer while growing up in Linden.

His sister Holly Bowen-Reardon said her brother was an inspiration and encouraging to everyone he met up until the end.

“When he began telling people goodbye, he was only worried about them. He would say ‘don’t worry about me. I’m great. I’m going to be OK,’” Reardon said.

“When he was first diagnosed with cancer he continued to work and had an optimistic and very positive attitude,” Assistant Chief Adam Ferguson, with Fayetteville Fire Department said.

Chief Ferguson said six of his firefighters have died from cancer in the past 16 years. He’s concern more could have cancer that have not been diagnosed.

“With all the improvements and changes we made and stuff we trying to do to address it, we know that it’s only a matter of time before unfortunately it will happen again,” Ferguson said.

Bowen could be the first Fayetteville firefighter who passed away from cancer to have his death re-classified as a “line of duty death,” by the North Carolina Industrial Commission. Due to a recent change to a state law, six cancers make fire fighters eligible. Those cancers include mesothelioma, testicular cancer, cancer of the small intestine, esophageal cancer, oral cavity cancer and pharynx cancer.

“Ultimately we are watching on the North Carolina Industrial Commission to approve as a line of duty death,” Assistant Chief Ferguson said.

John Bowen’s Family is having a Bowen Strong Invitational Fishing Tournament on May 13 at Holden Beach Marina. The purpose is to raise money for the John Bowen Memorial Scholarship fund. Scholarships are given to students who are interested in fire science or becoming a volunteer firefighter.

For more information go to Bowen Strong Invitational or email derickreardon@gmail.com.