Firefighters have a lot to worry about. Fires are a real threat every day. Lung issues are a bi-product of their jobs. However, cancer is the real threat. It has now come to light that cancer is killing more firefighters than fires or other health issues.
WSAZ followed the story of Keith Pyles, a Huntington Fire Captain who died from cancer after 20 years on the fire crew.
Here's an excerpt:
The report goes on to say that the CDC/National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health study tracked nearly 30,000 firefighters across the country in 2010 and found higher rates of cancer than the general population.
These statistics will hit home for departments across the nation, including in Huntington, West Virginia.
It was difficult for the entire crew when a firefighter of more than 20 years passed away from cancer.
"I had been on the fire department a little bit longer than Keith," said Jerry Beckett. "Actually, our first few years we worked opposite shifts."
Keith Pyles was a Huntington fire captain. Beckett, who know works for emergency services, got to know Pyles through work.
Eventually, both men were promoted to captain. They worked in the same station, but on opposite shifts. Then Beckett was promoted to Deputy Chief and was Pyles's shift commander.
The station at 14th Street West and Madison Avenue is where they worked side-by-side.
"Keith was a great firefighter," said Beckett. "He was attentative to detail. He wanted to make sure his people were well-trained. He was all about safety. Everybody needed to go home safe and sound, no injuries or anything."
Many at the department considered Pyles to be strict -- a character of tough love. Beckett even said Pyle was sometimes difficult to work for early in his career, but softened over the years.
"He held a very high standard for himself and expected everybody else to have that same standard," said Beckett. "So he did push his people and he could get hard to deal with sometimes to be honest with you, but he did it all because he wanted to do a good job and he wanted his people to do a good job."
Why are more firefighters dying of cancer than in the past?
Researchers say the reason more firefighters are dying of cancer is because of the materials in the properties that they are protecting. Synthetic materials are toxic and cover the firefighters in formaldehyde, ammonia, and other chemicals. Firefighters use self-contain breathing apparatuses, but some of these chemicals can be absorbed through the skin.
Perhaps it's time develop some smart technology?