It began in January 2015 with a small gathering of fire service representatives concerned about the growing frequency of firefighters being diagnosed with cancer. They met in Washington, DC to examine the science and research conducted to that point and consider what more could be done to understand and prevent the insidious disease.
The committee sensed they were on to something. They were right.
Thirty months later – with an initial expectation that about 200 would register – 500 firefighters of various ranks and departments, industry representatives and researchers are gathered in Phoenix for the Fire Service Occupational Cancer Symposium. It’s the first of its kind meeting focused solely on this issue. The two-day symposium features presentations and workshops that cover current research, prevention strategies, presumptive legislation, available benefits, and other relevant topics.
In her welcoming remarks to the attendees, Fire Chief Kara Kalkbrenner, of the Phoenix Fire Department, described the challenges of confronting firefighter cancer.
“(Firefighting) brings us directly in the face of danger and potential death every shift that we work. Yet the deadliest killer among us for so many years was silent,” she said. “It lies in the air around us after an incident. It’s in the equipment we use to operate in lethal environments and on the surface of our skin. This is unacceptable.”