Firefighters remember lieutenant who died of job-related cancer

Lincolnshire-Riverwoods Fire Protection District Lt. James Carney's three-and-a-half-year battle with cancer ended Dec. 17

By Karen Ann Cullotta
Chicago Tribune

LAKE COUNTY, Ill. — Anytime when newcomers joined the ranks of the Lincolnshire-Riverwoods Fire Protection District, Lt. James Carney always was the first to welcome them with kindness and respect.

So during Carney's three-and-a-half-year battle with cancer, his fellow firefighters were determined to support him on his final journey, which ended Dec. 17, firefighters with the district said.

Lt. James Carney died of cancer after a three-and-a-half-year battle. (Photo/Lincolnshire-Riverwoods Fire Protection District)
Lt. James Carney died of cancer after a three-and-a-half-year battle. (Photo/Lincolnshire-Riverwoods Fire Protection District)

Carney was 43.

Years after joining the district, Carney was diagnosed with duty-related cancer in 2013 after medical examinations determined the disease was the result of repeated exposure to carcinogens while fighting fires, said Steve Shetsky, a co-worker, firefighter and an executive board member of the International Association of Firefighters Local 4224.

"When a new guy arrives at the fire department, they typically have to earn the respect of their peers," Shetsky said. "But Jim was the kindest person you could ever meet, and he showed everyone respect."

Born in Waukegan on June 27, 1974, Carney grew up on his family's farm in Wadsworth with his two parents and sister Kelly, attending St. Patrick Elementary School and later Warren Township High School.

After attending Columbia Southern University, Carney began his career as a firefighter as an on-call member of the Newport Township Fire Protection District in Wadsworth and went on to earn his paramedic license.

In July 2000, he was hired by the Lincolnshire-Riverwoods Fire Protection District, where he was promoted to the rank of lieutenant in December 2006, developing the reputation for remaining calm, no matter how dire the circumstances, firefighters said.

Shetsky recently recalled an incident when Carney moved his crew as a floor was appearing to collapse while they were battling a large residential fire – a quick response that, Shetsky said, allowed the crew to escape moments before the floor gave way.

A few minutes later, after confirming his crew was safe, Carney was back giving orders and working to extinguish the fire, Shetsky said.

"Even though Jim had a quiet personality, he was friends with everyone and never had a disagreement with anyone," Shetsky said, adding, "Even towards the end, Jim never lost his sense of humor."

Carney is survived by his wife, Janelle Carney; daughter, Peyton; son, Brett; his parents, Fred and Vicki Carney; and sister, Kelly Carney.

Visitation will be from 3 to 8 p.m. Thursday at Marsh Funeral Home, 305 N. Cemetery Road, Gurnee. Family and friends also are set to gather Friday morning at St. Patrick Church, 15000 Wadsworth Road, Wadsworth, where a funeral Mass is planned for 10 a.m.

Interment will follow at Ascension Cemetery in Libertyville.

In lieu of flowers, contributions can be made to the 100 Club of Chicago, 875 N. Michigan Ave., Chicago, Ill., 60611.

Copyright 2017 Chicago Tribune

McClatchy-Tribune News Service

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