Plant City firefighters planning fundraiser to rally around firefighter-paramedic with brain cancer

Plant City firefighters now planning fundraiser
Posted at 3:45 PM, Apr 06, 2018
and last updated 2018-04-09 09:13:53-04

PLANT CITY, Fla. — "He'd been having a headache that he just couldn't get rid of, taking all the over-the-counter medications and it just wouldn't go away," explains Plant City Fire Department Battalion Chief Vincent Kiffner about firefighter-paramedic Jimmy Riley.

"We're thinking, it's probably just sinuses because its pollen season and we've been working the Strawberry Festival, so everybody's working a lot of hours, so everybody has a headache this time of the year," adds Kiffner.

After a few days, Riley went to the hospital to get checked out.

That's when doctors made a shocking, and heartbreaking, discovery.

Riley was diagnosed with Gioblastoma multiforme (GBM), a kind of fast-growing brain tumor.

It's devastating news for Riley, his wife and young daughter, and for the entire Plant City Fire Department.

"We're a close, tight-knit family especially here in Plant City because we're a small department, so everybody knows everybody," says Battalion Chief Kiffner. "As soon as we found out, guys started mobilizing, saying 'what can we do? Can we do a fundraiser for this, we need to take care of the family.'"

His fellow firefighters have already planned one fundraiser for later in April to help with what's expected to be grueling, and expensive treatment.

The fundraiser is on April 22 at the Walden Lake Car Wash at 1414 S. Alexander Street in Plant City from 10 a.m. until 4 p.m. The event will include not just a car wash but also BBQ and games. 

Another fundraiser, a golf tournament, is also being planned for Riley.

The golf tournament will be June 16 at the Northdale Golf Club; you can learn more at or email the organizers at Rileystronggolftournament@

Glioblastoma is rare, but has been in the news recently.

The St. Lucie County Health Department, in Eastern Florida, is investigating what could be an unusually concentrated number of cases of the brain cancer.

It's also the cancer Senator John McCain was recently diagnosed with.

Riley has been with the Plant City Fire Department for about 14 years, and is a former Marine; he's not even 40 years old yet.

The surgery went well, and Riley is said to be able to do normal things again, but doctors are still doing tests to determine the cancer's full spread, and Riley's long-term prognosis.

Treatment may include radiation. 

A patient might survive somewhere in the range from a year to 15 years, depending on the overall health of the person, Dr. Brian Kananagh of the University of Colorado Cancer Center recently told The Now on ABC Action News when discussing Senator McCain's case.

It's not yet clear if Riley could one day return to work at the fire station.

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