GLOUCESTER, Mass. - It was a fire in 1998, dubbed the Fisherman's Wharf fire in Gloucester, that sent firefighters scrambling to cover, including Michael Smith.
"He went into a chemical fire and fought," said widow Mary Beth Smith.
Mary Beth says her husband and other didn't have the proper apparatus to fight the fire.
Michael Smith was eventually diagnosed with cancer, spending years in front of doctors, like so many others in the fire service.
Mary Beth has no doubt it was that fire that caused her husband's cancer.
"My husband was sick. And then really sick. It was quick. It was fierce. And it took him down. It took him down," said Smith.
In 2012 at the age of 43, Smith lost his fight, but his wife has been fighting on ever since.
The Gloucester Retirement Board and the state's retirement commission haven't fully acknowledged that Smith died in the line of duty. That has kept some benefits from helping Mary Beth, who is now raising the couple's three kids, ranging in age from elementary school to college.
"It would make a huge impact on our lives for my retirement and my kids' college education. It would make a huge impact on our family," said Smith.
When Boston 25 News contacted the Gloucester Retirement Board, we were told the chairman of the board is the only one who can talk about this and he is out of town.
It doesn't sit well with Mary Beth who is just trying t get back every day, now as a single mom.
She has hired lawyer Joseph Orlando hoping one day it changes.
"Mike Smith deserves to be honored for what he did. He is a hero. And instead of being treated that way and instead of his family being treated that way, they have been disrespected," said Orlando.
Right now, Smith and her lawyer are trying to resolve this through government agencies in Gloucester, but if it doesn't change they say they're prepared to take it as far as need, including with a lawsuit.
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