Firefighters Band Together to Raise Cancer Awareness

One in three firefighters will be diagnosed with cancer during their career, Pasadena Deputy Fire Chief Bryan Frieders said.

Firefighters risk their lives to help others but when they're fighting cancer, they could use some help of their own.

One Pasadena Deputy Fire Chief is helping firefighters and their families not only cope with cancer, but maybe even help to prevent it.

"We are in the business of helping people and when we need help ... That doesn't really compute well with us," Pasadena Deputy Fire Chief Bryan Frieders said.

He wants to spread a warning message to his fellow firefighters: the job comes with an increased risk of cancer.

"There are more than 250 known carcinogens in an ordinary house fire so you can imagine what building fire, vehicle fire and other fire we go to on a regular basis may expose us to," Frieders said.

That is why as President of the Firefighters Cancer Support Network, he's helping firefighters and their families in the event of a cancer diagnosis.

The nonprofit that started in LA in 2005 has more than 350 volunteers nationwide.

"Firefighters, when they talk to other firefighters tend to open up and get comfortable very quick because it's really a brotherhood and sisterhood," Frieders said.

Firefighters battling cancer are matched with a mentor like Pasadena firefighter Tony Zee, who was diagnosed with stage four bone cancer.

"I just thought it was from training. Twenty-seven years old, who thinks they have cancer," Zee said.

He's doing what he can to battle back by working for the deputy chief's team.

"My job as a firefighter is to help the public, but now my job is to help other firefighters," Zee said.

In addition to support, the group educates firefighters about their risk of cancer. The goal is to reach every firefighter, from the recruit to the veteran.

"We have an old culture where the dirtier you look, the more manly you are," Zee said, "But you have to keep yourself clean because these carcinogens that stick to our gear are absorbing into our skin."

Frieders said one in three firefighters will be diagnosed with cancer during their career. With help, he's hoping to change that statistic.

"In your career you want to leave a good legacy and you want to figure out what your legacy is and for me to be involved in an organization that helps firefighters when they are dealing with the most tumultuous time in their life, that is a calling," Frieders said.

Contact Us