Excerpts from Your4State.com:

Fire Chief W. Kyd Dieterich with the Hagerstown Fire Department  doesn’t have a sense of smell, has difficulty talking and has trouble getting ready in the morning.

“I had squamous cell carcinoma in my larynx, so laryngeal cancer,” Dieterich said.

Kyd has worked in the City of Hagerstown for 35 years and was diagnosed with the cancer in 2012. He says over the past ten years it has been discovered that firefighters have been exposed to a high level of carcinogens on a continual basis.

“The mentality used to be that dirty, filthy turnout gear was a badge of honor, that you got in there and you got the job done. When in fact, we’re killing ourselves because cancer rates among firefighters are much higher than the rest of the population,” he said.

Kyd says the European fire service is way ahead of Americans when it comes to cancer prevention. He added they have decontamination stations on the fire trucks, and places like Hagerstown don’t.

“We need to change the culture of the way we think, the way we look at it from day one. The first day on the job, as far as I’m concerned, the very first lesson should be cancer prevention. That’s the only way we’re going to stop it,” Dieterich said.

Kyd joined a firefighter cancer support network in California to be a mentor to others diagnosed with similar types of cancer to what he has. He has simple advice to give to other firefighters.

“Wash your gear, wash your gear, wash your gear. When you’ve been exposed to smoke, carcinogens, things like that, get a shower, get it off your skin as fast as you can. Change your clothes as soon as you can. Mitigate the exposure as much as possible,” Dieterich said.

Chief Dieterich will be retiring at the end of the month.