Goodyear firefighter who died of cancer to be honored with Mount Everest hike

Mar 31, 2021, 4:45 AM
Austin Peck (KTAR News photo)...
Austin Peck (KTAR News photo)
(KTAR News photo)

PHOENIX – For the past two years, family and friends of fallen Goodyear firefighter Austin Peck have kept his memory alive after he passed away from cancer in 2019.

Peck made headlines as he battled a rare form of cancer while also fighting for worker’s compensation. His illness was believed to be a direct result of his job on a fire truck, but the city denied him health care coverage.

His family, friends and fellow firefighters are dedicated to bringing awareness to cancer in the fire service and honoring Peck’s name.

That’s why a seven-person team is now headed to Mount Everest for what they are calling, “Peck’s Trek”.

Peck’s uncle and chief of the Scottsdale Fire Department Tom Shannon has been training to hike Mount Everest since his nephew’s death.

“Peck’s Trek is really about bringing awareness to those public safety servants who expose themselves to dangers and hazards, and sometimes it costs them their lives,” chief Shannon told KTAR News 92.3 FM on Tuesday.

The memorial trip was planned over a year ago, but it had to be postponed due to COVID-19.

The team leaves Phoenix this week to start their 80-mile hike up and down Mount Everest on April 6, but missing a very important member of the team who can no longer make the trip.

Instead of boarding the plane, Peck’s dad, Mark, is hospitalized at St. Joseph’s Hospital and Medical Center in Phoenix.

“In the last five weeks, he’s contracted some sort of mysterious virus and it’s not COVID, it’s something else,” Shannon said. “But nevertheless, it’s taken his lungs and so he is literally fighting for his life now.”

The “Peck’s Trek” team is determined to hike Mount Everest in honor of the Peck family and bring awareness to the hardships they have faced over the last few years.

Part of that journey is placing hundreds of flags with messages, prayers and other mementos collected over the past two years on the mountain.

Jim Dooley, a close family friend and former firefighter, created the idea of “prayer flags.”

The mission was to collect messages from people across the state of Arizona to spread the word about cancer in the fire service and pay respect to a firefighter whose life was cut short because of it.

The team has collected over 200 flags with handwritten messages, from families of the fallen Yarnell 19 to Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey.

“We’re going to go just a little bit above base camp, there’s this place called Browns Mountain and the winds flow right up the mountain,” Shannon said. “The idea being that we’ll tie off all these prayer flags and as they disintegrate, the sentiments will go to God.”

The hike is expected to take roughly 12 to 13 days.

When the team returns home, they will continue to push the state Legislature to pass a bill that would close loopholes in a former law and ensure worker’s compensation for any firefighter battling cancer.

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Goodyear firefighter who died of cancer to be honored with Mount Everest hike