Archive for category Cancer in the fire service

Cancer in the fire service


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The increased rates of cancer in the fire service have been a key topic for researchers and firefighters alike. In 2015, an IAFF study found particles of soot and smoke from structure fires could penetrate a firefighter’s turnout gear and could be contributing to the spike in cancer rates among firefighters.

Data gathered from a mannequin armed with sensors known at N.C. State as Pyroman, is one tool researchers are using to better protect firefighters from carcinogens that increase their risk of cancer. At Raleigh and N.C. State, there are half a dozen ongoing research projects aimed at providing better protections for firefighters.  At N.C. State’s Textile Protection and Comfort Center, researchers are using Pyroman and PyroHead to combat soot and smoke in structure fires from penetrating a firefighter’s turnout gear, which could be contributing to the spike in cancer rates among firefighters.

Researchers are studying what chemical compounds are getting stuck to and later releasing from a firefighter’s turnout gear. That could be relevant for volunteer firefighters who may store their gear in their personal vehicles and puts anyone in the vehicle, including their families, at risk for exposure to carcinogens.

N.C. State is also focusing on glands on a firefighter’s face and neck and whether protective hoods are enough. In 2018, N.C. state developed a device, a particulate filtration efficiency test, with a light meter attached, that lets fire departments check their hoods for weaknesses.

Getting soot and grime off a firefighter’s skin sooner also has more departments using wipes on scene. 

The research projects at N.C. State are funded through FEMA’s Assistance to Firefighters Grant Program. To learn more about the program, click on the following link: NC State University Heat and Flame Protection TPACC

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Niles Fire Department news

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Michelle Aprati, a mother of four and a Niles firefighter and paramedic for the last 16 years was working a shift when she received word that she had breast cancer. The hardest part of her diagnosis was telling her family — both at home and at the firehouse. And like family, the men of the Niles Fire Department stepped forward to offer their support.

On Feb. 16, they and members of the Park Ridge, North Maine, Morton Grove, Skoki,e and Glenview fire departments gathered at the Niles fire station to shave their heads in solidarity with Aprati, who is in the middle of her first phase of chemotherapy treatments. She had been planning to have her husband shave her head due to the hair loss she was experiencing from the treatments, but when she heard members of the department wanted to do a mass shaving event at the fire station, she agreed to hold off.

The event also acted as a fundraiser to help pay her medical expenses not covered by insurance. When someone offered to donate $500 if Fire Chief Marty Feld agreed to shave his decades-old mustache in addition to the hair on his head, Aprati picked up the shaver. About 50 people, most of them fire personnel or family members, volunteered to have their heads shaved. 

In addition to contributing financial donations, firefighters sold pins shaped like pink ribbons to raise money for Aprati. She is the only female firefighter/paramedic in Niles hired in 2003 and working there ever since. Her father was a fire chief in Elk Grove Village and Itasca.

Diagnosed with breast cancer in December, she is in her sixth of 12 rounds of chemotherapy and has felt well enough to continue working her regular shifts. She acknowledges, though, that as her treatment progresses, fatigue may force her to take some time off. After her first series of treatments, she will begin a second phase that requires four cycles of new cancer-fighting drugs. Surgery and radiation will follow. Her cancer spread to her lymph nodes and is considered to be stage 3 or 4, but she explained that she is taking her doctor’s advice to focus on how it is being treated, rather than the stage given to it.

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Cancer in the Fire Service

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Congresswoman Abigail Spanberger and Congressman Don Bacon (R-Nebraska-02), a U.S. Air Force veteran, introduced the Michael Lecik Military Firefighters Protection Act on Thursday in the U.S. House. It aims to provide veteran firefighters will the compensation, health care, and retirement benefits they earned with their military service. The bill is named for Michael Lecik, a Powhatan County resident who was deployed twice as a U.S. Air Force firefighter.

Lecik was diagnosed with multiple myeloma in Feb. 2019, but the Veterans Health Administration does not cover the treatment costs for such disease because the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs does not often recognize the service connection between firefighting and cancer as a presumptive service-connected disability more than a year after active duty. Lecik’s service ended in 2008. Following his military service, Lecik became a civilian firefighter and then chief fire inspector at U.S. Army Garrison Fort Lee. he also volunteered as a firefighter with the Huguenot Volunteer Fire Department.

The legislation would create a presumption that veteran firefighters who become disabled by certain diseases, such as heart disease, lung disease or certain cancers, contracted that illness during their military service. It would also extend the time frame during which certain diseases can be recognized as service-connected to military firefighting to 15 years.

The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health conducted a study in 2010 that found U.S. firefighters are more likely to suffer from certain diseases and illnesses as a result of their career, and they ten to experience higher rates of cancer than the general population in the United States.

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Cancer in the fire service

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The Ray Pfeifer Foundation confirmed on Twitter Wednesday that two more New York City firefighters have died due to “9/11 illness,” marking the 199th, and 200th FDNY deaths related to the World Trade Center attacks. Retired FDNY Captain Dennis Gilhooly of Engine Company 67, and retired Firefighter Brian Casse of Engine Company 294, both died.

The Ray Pfeifer Foundation was established in memory of an FDNY firefighter who died on May 28, 2017 from cancer related to 9/11. He was a leading force in lobbying to extend the Zadroga Act through 2090, ensuring health care coverage for 75,000 people who need, or will need, treatment for health conditions developed as a direct result of 9/11 exposure.

In March 2018, the Uniformed Firefighters Association of Greater New York reported that more than 170 firefighters had died as the result of illnesses related to the World Trade Center attacks. More than 50,000 people have illnesses linked to their exposure to toxins that were released after the towers collapsed.

Scientific evidence linking the attacks to cancer is still unsettled. Researchers studying illnesses among people exposed to the 9/11 dust cloud have found an unusual number of deaths from brain malignancies and non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, but fewer deaths than expected from other types of cancer.

Securing federal funding for the 9/11 Victim Compensation Fund, which covers medical treatment for 9/11 emergency personnel, has been a battle.

Luis Alvarez, a former New York City police detective who publicly fought for the fund, including an appearance in front of Congress near the end of his battle with colorectal cancer, died in June. He was 53.

In July, President Trump signed the “Never Forget the Heroes Act,” extending the compensation fund through 2092, and securing an additional $10.2 billion in payments over the next 10 years.

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Cancer in the Fire Service

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The Cortland Fire Department deployed engines and other fire trucks full of Rick “Spider” Kramer’s brothers to wish him well in his ongoing battle with cancer. Everyone who was there gave their him a hug. Kramer spent 43 years as a firefighter, including 12 as a volunteer with the Cortland Fire Department, and he is currently the Fourth Ward alderman in Sycamore.

He started fighting stage 4 nasophyangeal cancer in May, which was originally thought to just be congestion and earaches. It’s been tough to say the least. Despite the rough road, he remains optimistic.

The department, made entirely of volunteers, presented the Kramers with an $8,700 check. $7,600 was raised during a recent benefit and the fire department donated the other $1,100 to the Pink Heals Tri-cities chapter.

The Kramers were overwhelmed by the showing in front of their house. They knew people were coming to present them with a check, but knowing and seeing were two different things for them.

Gloria Kramer said after Tuesday’s chemotherapy treatment, her husband will have a break, undergo some tests, and then sometime after that he’ll begin radiation treatments. She said the town of Sycamore has been very generous, and both the Cortland and Sycamore fire departments have been amazing.

Rick was taken aback by the support the Cortland firefighters and paramedics showed.

thanks Dorothy

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Cortland Fire Department news

benefit for firefighter

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Cancer in the Fire Service

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Recently, the Champaign-Urbana community has rallied behind a local firefighter battling cancer.


Peoria Fire Department news

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Peoria Fire Chief Ed Olehy is working to craft policies to cut down on firefighter exposure to carcinogens. Currently, the Peoria Fire Department does not have a procedure to reduce the risk from cancer-causing substances that stick to gear during a working fire. 

The danger is real. Three active-duty members of the fire department have recently died from cancer. Olehy says cleaning off gear requires helping firefighters change old habits and attitudes.  It can be especially challenging to clean off gear with a soap and brush in extreme weather. And with only one set of gear per firefighter, swapping out isn’t an option. 

The Peoria Fire Department recently received a grant for three new extractors that are being installed and they are working to implement standard operating guidelines to reduce the cancer risk for the men and women of the fire department. 

The chief recently received an Executive Fire Officer Degree from the National Fire Academy after defending a paper on this topic to a panel of experts. 

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North Chicago Fire Department news

From the North Chicago Firefighters IAFF Local 3271 Facebook page:

Our brother Keith Peacy has been diagnosed with stage 4 colon cancer and has the fight of his life coming. Let stand together in Keith’s corner while he kicks cancers colon. Keith is a 16 year veteran with NCFD and has spend countless hours helping the less fortunate while on mission trips to Haiti. He is also a member of the WHFD. Now its time to help our brother out.

North Chicago Firefighter Keith Peacy



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Cancer in the fire service

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Under legislation pending in Albany (NY), city firefighters would be granted a five-year post-retirement period in which they could revise their retirement option if they developed cancer that may be linked to carcinogens they were exposed to on the job.

Epidemiological studies have established the firefighting-cancer link for several years. A 2013 study published in the Journal of Occupational Environmental Medicine, based on the review of the health records of 30,000 firefighters from Chicago, Philadelphia and San Francisco, found “evidence of a relation between firefighting and cancer” and a new finding that found evidence of “excess malignant mesothelioma” as well.

Since 2002, cancer was the cause in almost two out of every three firefighter line-of-duty deaths, according to the International Association of Fire Fighters.

Also included would be any WTC firefighter who developed cancer subsequently but was told by officials that they developed it too soon after 9/11 to claim it was job-related under the Zadroga Act.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention cited formaldehyde, asbestos, and arsenic as problematic.