Death of Memphis firefighter raises questions about toll of job

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MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Fire Station #37 is missing one of its own.

A flag has been lowered in honor of Fire Lt. Rodney Eddins. The 30-year veteran was inside a burning home when he collapsed.

"It's a physical demanding job and a mental demanding job," said Thomas Malone, the head of the Memphis Firefighters Union.

Malone said it's common for lieutenants to go in with their crew to make sure they are safe.

"You take your crew inside, and you basically work from the inside out. You are the eyes on the inside for the chief on the outside," said Malone.

At 30 years of service,  Malone said Eddins had passed the threshold of 25 years to retire. He said often firefighters keep working because of insurance.

"He would be in the pre-65 group that was having to pay all this money for their insurance. We are gonna see this a lot more I am afraid if we don't fix the insurance. People are going to be staying on this job until they are able to get on Medicare," Malone said.

While 57 is not necessarily old, when you are fighting fires, it can take a toll on the body.

"We are gonna be looking at the stress and the strain on the heart and the workload that these people have," Malone said.

It's given citizens a new appreciation for firefighters.

"I am really thankful for him, because he came and helped me, him and the fire department. I am really thankful for the fire department being here," said the owner of the home where LEddins collapsed.

No one has said if LEddins had any prior health issues that may have been a factor in his death. Malone said conditions with the heart, lungs and hypertension are considered job-related conditions per the contract with the city, but there are clauses.

"It is a rebuttal presumption that says it can be rebutted by competent medical evidence," Malone said.

The union said Eddins' case is the prime example of why the fight for better health insurance is so important.

"This is going to go up not down if changes aren't made," Malone said.

As for the line-of-duty death payment, the union said there are federal benefits of more than $300,000 and city benefits that also max out around that level. It all depends on the years of service.

Information on Eddins' funeral arrangements

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