By Makenzie O'Keefe

(CBS4) — South Metro Fire Rescue has lost its former Chief of Operations, Troy Jackson. Officials said Jackson passed away peacefully Monday morning from adenoid cystic carcinoma — a rare job-related cancer.

Troy Jackson (credit: South Metro Fire)

With flags flying at half-staff and badges shrouded, first responders gathered at the hospital Monday morning. First responders lined the walls standing at attention, as a procession took place across the Denver metro area.

(credit: South Metro Fire)

“When I received the call this morning it was tough,” explained South Metro Fire Rescue Chief of Operations, Jon Adams. “It was tough.”

Adams told CBS4’s Makenzie O’Keefe he was with Chief Jackson on Sunday, and the two worked closely at South Metro Fire for years.

“He’s just an amazing guy,” Adams said. “He’s the best friend you could ask for, and a great father and husband.”

(credit: South Metro Fire)

For six years, Chief Jackson had battled a rare form of cancer, related to the job. Firefighters are often covered in soot and other chemicals after a fire, and that’s when carcinogens can absorb into their skin. Dirty bunker gear was once a badge of honor for a job well-done, but after his diagnosis, Chief Jackson pushed for change.

“Sometimes it talks a brave person to raise their hand and say what we were doing was wrong,” Adams said. “And we need to make a change and make a change for the health of our future firefighters.”

(credit: CBS)

Adams said Chief Jackson always looked out for those around him. In 2018, he showed CBS4’s Kelly Werthmann buckets the department put on every rig, so crews can wash their gear and reduce the carcinogens brought back to the station.

“It didn’t change his diagnosis, and it wouldn’t cure his cancer,” Adams explained. “But for him it was about how do I make sure everyone goes home safe or make sure they don’t have to go through six years of radiation, chemotherapy, surgeries and hospital visits. That’s just the guy he was.”

Troy Jackson (credit: CBS)

Adams added that Chief Jackson leaves behind a living legacy at South Metro Fire Rescue. He helped to draft the rookie book probationary firefighters still use to this day, and was critical in changing how they teach recruits in fire academy over the years.

“There isn’t one thing we are doing today that he hasn’t touched or had an impact on,” Adams said.

(credit: South Metro Fire)

Adams said despite his illness, Chief Jackson attended SMFR’s most recent fire academy graduation. And just this past week, he attended his daughter’s graduation in Grand Junction. She was sworn in as a law enforcement officer in the Denver metro area earlier this month.

“He’s just an amazing guy,” Adams said. “I’m really going to miss him.”

SMFR will release details about Chief Jackson’s funeral later this week.

Makenzie O'Keefe