In 2009, though, a mysterious pain in his left leg turned out to be a baseball-size tumor that had broken his hip and developed into Stage 4 kidney cancer. He had surgery 48 hours later.
A litany of critical medical procedures followed, including hip, femur and knee replacements and the removal of a kidney. He also had a heart attack after being weakened by chemotherapy.
Even as his condition worsened, however, he was leading the fight to extend health care benefits for emergency workers and survivors of the 9/11 attacks by buttonholing public officials in New York and Washington.
The goal of the campaign was to extend federal legislation, providing health care monitoring and other assistance, that had been approved by Congress in 2010.
Known as the James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act, the legislation was named for a New York City detective whose death from respiratory causes at 34 was linked by supporters of the bill to the World Trade Center attack.
But those federal benefits would have expired in 2015 without the lobbying of a coalition that included the comedian Jon Stewart and a group of survivors. Congress then extended the act’s compensation provisions to 2020 and its health care measures to 2090.
“I was just the poster boy,” Mr. Pfeifer said of his role in the lobbying effort.
Fire Commissioner Daniel A. Nigro said on Monday, “Ray Pfeifer was a true fighter who bravely battled fires as a New York City firefighter and fought tirelessly for all first responders who — like him — suffered from World Trade Center-related illness.”
Mayor Bill de Blasio, who presented Mr. Pfeifer with a key to the city last year, said Monday that because of Mr. Pfeifer’s leadership in the fight, other survivors “get to wake up in the morning and not have that horrible, pervasive worry about…