‘We need to do something:’ Ohio group raises awareness about cancer epidemic in firefighters

Updated: Oct. 28, 2020 at 6:03 PM EDT
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CINCINNATI (FOX19) - Wednesday is National First Responders Day, intended to honor the men and women putting their lives on the line day after day.

Unfortunately, with that comes the danger of illnesses, among them cancer, the leading cause of death in firefighters.

It’s why the Ohio Firefighters Attacking the Cancer Epidemic Group, known as the FACE team, gathered Wednesday afternoon to bring awareness to what they describe as a crisis.

Dave Greve is assistant fire chief with the Liberty Township Fire Department.

“It’s something we can’t put off," Greve said. “We need to do something now. We’re already in this epidemic, we need to do something to combat it. We need to come up with procedures and technologies to assist us.”

Firefighters say they’re stressing the importance of leaving carcinogens at the fire scene. That includes doing a full “decon” procedure, which involves removing contaminants from the bodies and gear of firefighters.

“Taking the time to brush and scrub the gear prior to leaving the scene," Greve explained, “so we don’t bring that into the firetruck(...) The people that are coming in now, the younger people, can make that part of their culture from the beginning.”

Two local firefighters are currently battling cancer, a Mason Fire Department lieutenant and the fire chief at the North College Hill Fire Department.

MORE: West Chester firefighter dies from cancer attributed to work, considered a ‘Line of Duty Death’

Glendale Fire Chief Kevin Hardwick says it’s something that hits close to home for him.

“It is personal," Hardwick said. “I’ve lost a very good friend of mine a couple years ago on my department. He was a personal friend. I was friends with his father who was also a firefighter, and now we have more people in the communities who are dealing with that in the fire service community."

The Ohio FACE team will be meeting once per month to come up with more strategies to help the situation. They say the more people involved, the more people they can help.

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