WHATCOM ­— North Whatcom Fire & Rescue reports that the June 4 cancer death of firefighter John O. Swobody is the first line-of-duty death in the fire district’s history. 
 
Swobody, a firefighter for almost 19 years, passed in the evening with family and friends at his side, the district posted. John is survived by his wife Annette and three children. 
 
“John will be greatly missed and our thoughts and prayers are with you all,” fire chief William Pernett told the Blaine family. “His service to this community and those around him was sincere and upheld the mission of the fire district.”
 
Because his cancer was determined to have been caused by his profession as a firefighter, John’s death is considered to be a line-of-duty death, and as such it is the first in the history of North Whatcom, also known as Fire District 21.
 
“He will be honored as a fallen firefighter with due regard” with a line-of-duty death service, the district said. Arrangements are being made with the family.
 
Swobody joined North Whatcom Fire and Rescue in July 1999 and served in various capacities including firefighter, training captain and division chief. Over the years, he responded to thousands of 911 calls and was “kind, compassionate and giving” in a profession that truly suited him, the district posted.