West Chester firefighter dies from cancer attributed to work, considered a 'Line of Duty Death'

West Chester firefighter dies from cancer attributed to work, considered a 'Line of Duty Death'
West Chester firefighters are wearing mourning bands across their badges. (Provided by West Chester Township)
West Chester firefighters are wearing mourning bands across their badges. (Provided by West Chester Township)
Tim Burns (Photo: Provided by West Chester Township)
Tim Burns (Photo: Provided by West Chester Township)

WEST CHESTER, OH (FOX19) - A full-time West Chester firefighter who also was a part-time captain with the Glendale Fire Department died Wednesday after a long battle with renal cancer he developed through his job, fire and township officials said.

"The Glendale Fire Department is sad to announce the passing of current Glendale Fire Captain Tim Burns," Glendale Fire Chief Kevin Hardwick said in a prepared statement.

"Tim lost his life to cancer that was attributed to his work in the fire service. His death is considered a "Line of Duty Death" and will be treated as such. The State of Ohio has recognized that cancer is a presumptive disease relating to employment as a fire fighter."

A new Ohio law recognizes cancer as a work-related illness for firefighters and gives them the ability to claim workers compensation and have their medical bills covered.

The law is named in honor of a Cleveland-area firefighter, Michael Palumbo, who fought for it after he was diagnosed with cancer.

He spent decades battling fires and protecting others before he was diagnosed with brain cancer in 2015.

According to a study from the Center for Disease Control, about 22 percent of the general population develops cancer.

But the number of firefighters that become ill is much higher: about 68 percent.

Burns leaves behind his wife of 18 years, Vicki, and 14-year-old twin sons, Zachary and Spencer. His family is asking for privacy, state fire union officials said.

He was surrounded by family, friends and fellow firefighters when he died, West Chester officials said statement.

Burns worked for West Chester 19 years. He was a fire instructor, member of the Honor Guard and part of the Butler County Technical Rescue Team.

"Tim was proud to be a fire fighter.  It was his lifelong dream" said Doug Stern, spokesman for the state fire union association.

Arrangements are being made for a funeral that will include a procession of fire apparatus, honor guards and other tributes, township officials said. Details are expected to be announced soon.

"Tim served our community with great integrity and professionalism," said West Chester Fire Chief Rick Prinz.

"He will be remembered by his fellow firefighters for his commitment, compassion and humor. He has demonstrated great bravery and dignity throughout his illness leaving behind a legacy to be honored."

Burns began his career at New Burlington Fire Department, where he worked alongside his father and Chief Hardwick.

"He first was one of the Explorers and then as a volunteer. When Springfield Township took over the department, he stayed on as a part-time firefighter," Chief Hardwick said.

"Then Tim also worked part time for Colerain, Springdale, Liberty Township and West Chester. West Chester finally offered Tim a full-time position, where he remained until his illness.

"A few years ago, Tim joined with the Glendale Fire Department to help give back and to help show the way to our young people. We have a few others that were a part of the New Burlington Department with Tim. That made it a comfortable fit for him.
"Tim's wishes were to keep Glendale a part of the closing chapter of his life. I am very happy to fulfill his request and to carry on his spirit," Chief Hardwick said.

"I am privileged to call Tim a friend and will miss him deeply. All the members of the Glendale Fire Department are better having known Tim. He did it the right way when it comes to life in the fire service. The funeral services are currently being finalized.
"Rest in Peace Captain Tim Burns....We'll take it from here..."

Burns' cancer metastasized and spread into other areas of his body, according to www.burnsbattle.com.

"He has recently received a terminal diagnosis by his doctors giving him two months to two years to live," the website states.

"This has been a sudden shock to his wife and two 14-year-old sons.

"As fellow firefighters, Tim is our brother, and it is a long standing fire service tradition that we take care of our own," the website states.

"On top of the physical and emotional stress Tim and his family will also have to endure a great financial stress.

"We have created a plan to help ease the financial burden of the soon mounting healthcare costs through several fundraisers.

"We also hope to raise enough funds to ensure Tim that his two sons' college expenses will be covered if they choose to attend, by creating scholarships for both boys.

"This is going to be a large goal to reach and we need your help."

Donations can be made at any Fifth Third Bank under the name "Burns Battle", or to the American Cancer Society in his name.

Or, sign up to participate in a fundraiser Sunday night at Top Golf.

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