RALEIGH, N.C.(WNCN) – Brent Upton spent 12 years as a firefighter before being diagnosed with esophageal cancer in 2018. Upton left the Raleigh Fire Department for medical retirement after six months of chemotherapy.

The 38-year-old Lieutenant died in March 2021 of cancer. The North Carolina Industrial Commission recognized his death as a line-of-duty death in October of that year.

This Saturday, May 7, the City of Raleigh will hold a memorial for Upton at the North Carolina Fallen Firefighters event.

A candlelight vigil will be held Friday night. A fire truck parade is scheduled the Saturday before the memorial at 1 p.m.

Upton spoke with CBS 17 in Dec. 2019 about his fight for easier access to cancer treatment for firefighters.

“We’re the ones that you call to help when people are in these dangerous situations around these toxic chemicals. Somebody has got to do it. If you want them to come do the job, you need to be willing to help them out if they need it,” Upton said at the time.

Upton hoped to help the next generation of firefighters, many of whom are likely to also be diagnosed with some form of occupational cancer.

He told CBS 17 his insurance covered as much of the treatment as possible, but it still wasn’t enough to cover the extent of his medical bills.

“I never got anything from the city. The only money or funds I got were from my fellow firefighters’ paychecks, from their pocket giving it to me because the treatment is expensive,” Upton said.

In 2019, the International Association of Fire Fighters said more than 75 percent of the names added to their memorial wall dies of occupational cancer. The association cites occupational cancer is the leading cause of line-of-duty deaths.