By Bryan Boggiano
The City of Coral Springs hopes to bring visibility to an issue important to firefighters: cancer.
The city commission proclaimed Jan. 2023 as Firefighter Cancer Awareness Month at their Wed., Jan 11, meeting, surrounded by the Coral Springs-Parkland Fire Department staff and Deputy Director of the Fire Fighting Cancer Initiative Natasha Schaefer Solle.
The parents of Firefighter Paramedic Nate Leonard, Jim, Marylin, and his widow, Nina, also joined. Nate died from occupational cancer, which he got as a result of his job, on Jan 12, 2022.
“We’ll forever be in your debt for your sacrifice, and we miss him now, we miss him tomorrow, and we’ll miss him every day, and we won’t stop thinking about him,” said Chief Michael McNally to Leonard’s family.
Occupational cancer is the leading cause of line-of-duty death in the fire service. At the International Association of Firefighters (IAFF) 2022 Fallen Firefighter Memorial, it was the cause of death of 348 out of 469 names added to the memorial, according to city documents.
Within the Coral Springs-Parkland Fire Department, city documents state that an unspecified number of fire staff had been diagnosed.
In 2022, the World Health Organization reclassified firefighting as a group one carcinogen profession. According to the WHO, there is sufficient evidence to conclude fire fighting is carcinogenic to humans.
Expanding on the WHO’s findings and the work of the University of Miami Fire Fighting Cancer Initiative and the Fire Fighter Cancer Support Network, the IAFF designated Jan. as Fire Fighter Cancer Awareness Month.
“To see this be recognized by the IAFF as a national recognition of cancer month is amazing,” Schaefer Solle said. “We’ve come a long way, and there’s a lot more to do.”
Division Chief Christopher Bator also thanked the commission for providing up-to-date technology and equipment to the department. He also thanked the commission for the recognition.
This designation provides firefighters the resources to develop life-saving protocols and to support people with cancer in their departments, which will bring more attention and action to the issue, according to city documents.
“We are here to committed to making this awareness lead to more resolutions, less deaths, and less cancer amongst our firefighters,” said Mayor Scott Brook.
City Manager Frank Babinec also reiterated the importance of raising awareness and reducing the carcinogenic risk associated with firefighting.
Babinec joined the fire department in 1991 and was chief between 2014 and 2019.
“We can’t stop with the work that’s being done and will continue to be done,” he said. “It’s incumbent upon all of us that have the roles and responsibility that can take action to reduce the risk to our firefighters.”
- A University of Florida journalism graduate, Bryan is pursuing his masters in geosciences at Florida International University. He has a strong interest in weather, entertainment, and journalism.
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