For almost 21 years, Rex Green has given up his free time -- including holidays -- to help put out fires.
Now, Green's fellow firefighters are hoping the community he has served for so long will return the favor as he changes his focus from battling blazes to battling cancer.
The West Richland man has served as a volunteer firefighter in Benton Fire District 4 for 16 years while working full time as the head custodian for the Pasco School District. He also is raising two children with his high school sweetheart.
"Rex is a person who ... it's not about him, it's about giving back to the community," said Krista Weeks, a volunteer with Fire District 4. "It's really important to him, but unfortunately he has a health challenge now, and he's in need."
In December, Green started feeling pain in his shoulder and had a biopsy of a rapidly growing lump. On New Year's Eve, he learned he had a form of sarcoma and has been receiving chemotherapy at the University of Washington Medical Center in Seattle.
Sarcoma is a cancer that forms in the soft tissues of the body and is most common in the arms, legs, abdomen and trunk, according to the National Cancer Institute.
Sarcoma is rare in adults -- it represents just 1 percent of all adult cancers -- but accounts for about 15 percent of all childhood cancers, according to the Sarcoma Foundation of America.
Like other cancer, surgery, chemotherapy and radiation treatment are common ways to treat it, but sarcoma can be resistant to those treatments, the foundation's website said.
Green, who turns 41 on Saturday, has been receiving two types of chemo that require a weeklong stay at the Seattle hospital.
"The nurses would come in and 'gown up' just to change the bag, that's how toxic it is," said his wife, Amie Green.
Rex Green has made seven trips to Seattle since January, and left Friday to begin one more chemo treatment, she said.
Once he completes this round, he will get an MRI to see how effective the treatment has been, she said.
If the cancers' grown, surgery probably will be the next option. If there is no change, he may need a combination of chemotherapy and surgery. If it is shrinking, he may need a couple more five-day chemo treatments, his wife said.
Amie Green is a sub-contracted employee for CH2M Hill Plateau Remediation Co., which is cleaning up central Hanford, but she has been making trips to Seattle with her husband while their 13-year-old son and 11-year-old daughter stay with their grandparents.
She already has used all her vacation for the year, so she has to take time off without pay, she said.
The chemo treatments cost about $10,000 each time, and Rex Green's insurance is expected to cover about 65 percent of it.
His fellow firefighters at District 4 are planning fundraisers to help cover costs of travel to Seattle and medical bills. There also is an account in his name at Gesa Credit Union for donations.
Firefighting is in Rex Green's blood. His grandfather and uncle were firefighters, and they instilled in him the importance of helping others, even at the risk of their own safety or well-being, Weeks said.
He followed in their footsteps in 1991, as a volunteer for Benton Fire District 1, where he spent five years.
When Rex Green started with Fire District 4 in 1996, it was an all-volunteer staff. It now has a combination of 13 career staff and 25 volunteers and operates out of two fire stations.
Rex Green has responded out of Station 410 on Grosscup Boulevard, along with fellow volunteer firefighter Dan White.
"He's one of the guys who turns out for everything the district needs help with," White said. "When it comes to fires, he's right there. He wants to be the first one in."
White says it takes a lot to work a full-time job and volunteer with the district.
The volunteers get paged when there is a fire, and those who are available go to the station.
"Rex is one of the mainstays. He's been consistently one of the top one or two responders -- if not the top," White said. "It makes a big differences when you enter the burning building -- it's important to trust the person you're with."
In 2011, Rex Green responded to 192 emergency calls -- an average of more than three calls each week.
"Rex is a very humble guy, very hard working and gives lots to the community," White said. "Whether it's Operation Candy Cane or raising money for Christmas for under privileged kids, or responding to a structure fire, he's there and he's always working hard."
Rex Green can't put on his fire gear and respond to fires right now, but that doesn't mean he has stopped being a part of the fire district, Weeks said. He has been given the OK to help out with a fire rehabilitation group when he feels up to it, she said.
"It's so he can stay involved in the department. It means everything to him," she said. "I truly haven't met anybody as dedicated and selfless as he is."