I personally knew more than a dozen firefighters and paramedics that were killed in the line of duty during the 22 years that I was full time.
There was Paul, who died six weeks after breaking his leg in a car accident where he stayed and helped the injured, making sure that he was the last one transported. He was killed in the accident and didn’t even know it. He was 40 years old.
There was Lou, who was run over on the side of the road by a drunk driver.
Lyle had a heart attack while on an EMS call. He was 45. The medic who worked him had just gotten a chewing out from him a week earlier for screwing up a medical call. Lyle had told the medic, “If I ever go down, I wouldn’t want your dumb ass touching me.” That medic still feels bad about that to this day, over a decade later.
Larry died of cancer that he likely got on the job, as firefighters get cancer at double the rate of the general public. He was 56 years old.
John and Dallas were killed in a training accident. John was 32, Dallas was 20.
There was Sean, run over at an accident scene.
John died of a heart attack just an hour after he left work from working a fire, and a heart attack also got Trevor when he was 43.
Bill got pancreatic cancer and died last year. He didn’t smoke or drink. Nothing ever got him excited. Even among long service firefighters that pride themselves on remaining calm under pressure, Bill was a legend. His nickname was “Concrete” because he was so solid that nothing ever moved him. He was a health nut that exercised and drank these health drinks that tasted and smelled like grass clippings. We used to make fun of him for that. I remember that he would eat a handful of vitamins for lunch. Didn’t help, he died at 56 years old.
Dave’s daughter found him in the shower, dead of a heart attack just hours after he got home from working a fire.

Then there are the injuries and illnesses. I know about a dozen guys with hepatitis, another 4 or 5 with cancer, I know three guys who are less than 50 years old that have gotten knee replacements. There are another ten or so with cancer. A few more have tuberculosis. I know my son has a positive TB test, indicating exposure. TB is so widespread in the homeless around here, that most of the paramedics I know test positive for the antibodies. 

I have had surgery to repair an injured leg. I was exposed to chemicals on a call that gave me a serious cardiac dysrhythmia that lasted for three hours when I was only 36 years old.

All in all, a dangerous profession. I am glad that I retired before anything fatal or debilitating happened to me, but I have to say that I am nervous, knowing that my odds of cancer are so high.

The guys in their 50’s who died: they spent their lives serving others. I know that sounds corny, but it’s true. Most of them spent more than three decades running towards what other were running from. I learned something from each and every one of them, even the new guys. I miss some more than others.

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Anonymous · September 22, 2013 at 4:15 pm

God bless all of you for so selflessly sacrificing your health and lives to save ours. Thank you.

bookmoth · October 2, 2013 at 9:11 pm

Thank you.

15 years ago, my house was almost destroyed in a fire (my family was fine, just coughing smoke for a few days). Volunteer firefighters from 6 towns came and saved enough of it that we could repair within 6 months rather than level and rebuild.

My mom cried afterward: "I only gave them $100 each Christmas we lived here and they came and saved my house." We gave a heck of a lot more after that.

None of you get the thanks and recognition you deserve, as often as you deserve it. Sorry for that. But thank you so much for what you do.

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