Honor the Badge: Noel Clarke

Moundsville Fire Chief Noel Clarke has been serving the community he grew up in for the last 20 years.

He still enjoys putting on his fire gear day in and day out, even while fighting a battle of his own.

Noel Clarke didn't think about becoming a firefighter until he had to help put out a fire inside a factory he was working in.

From then on, he's never looked back.

"Just assume to get home alive and get to our families and friends and then come back the next day and help again. I don't think anybody is in this for the pat on the back," Clarke said.

Setting himself apart on the force in Moundsville by studying the fire service, he says his goal was always to be the chief, a role he's proudly held for over a decade.

A few years ago, everything changed when Noel was diagnosed with colon cancer.

"We've shared a lot of laughs and a lot of tears over the last few years and it's been an incredible journey," said Clarke.

In a study by the CDC, firefighters had a greater number of cancer diagnoses and deaths.

In his fourth relapse, his cancer has spread to his liver. 

He'll be starting chemo again soon, and doesn't know if his cancer is related to the job.

"I don't know if it's direct tie to it, I would think that there is just because I look back over the course of my career and you know just some of the things that we did in the past, you know, by not cleaning gear and composing ourselves to chemicals and by-products of combustion, over course of time, yeah that effects us and there are a lot of fire fighters out there that their cancers are directly tied to fire fighting."

Senate bill 48 pushing for cancer to be recognized as a work related illness for firefighters passed in the West Virginia Senate, and is still pending in the House.

"We really, really need to get some legislation passed to get them taken care of because they're out there putting their lives on the line for what little money that they make and when they become ill that's all they got," said Clarke.

Even on his bad days, he still puts on his gear to keep Moundsville safe.

Now with a little extra encouragement, his "Noel Strong bracelets" as a constant reminder, his fellow fire fighters and the whole community are fighting right alongside him.

"It's crazy, it's something you can't explain it definitely warms your heart, it shows you that there is good, I just hope that somehow through all of  this that somebody can be inspired to fight their battles, to never give up, keep hope," Clarke said.

There will be a Noel Strong Steak Fry raising money for Noel and his treatments on June 24th from 5 to 8 at the Marshall County Fairgrounds.

Honor the Badge is presented by Quaker Steak and Lube at the Highlands. 


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