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San Diego firemen face fires and cancer

Local scanners follow them with PulsePoint

Jamul fire was captioned in part with #SanMiguelFire.
Jamul fire was captioned in part with #SanMiguelFire.

On January 10, SDFireBrigade posted an Instagram video of a burning truck in the "#sandiego .... airport parking garage" filmed by @OnSceneTV earlier that morning.

The day before and about 30 miles east of the San Diego International Airport, the City of San Diego's Fire-Rescue Department extinguished a fire burning through a house in Jamul, where two rooms were heavily damaged, according to the @CALFIRESANDIEGO Twitter page. The tweet depicted behind-the-scene photos of the fire rescue, and it was captioned in part with #SanMiguelFire, noting its likely source, the recently reported 20-acre brush fire at Mount San Miguel Park.

Last week, SDFireBrigade re-posted footage taken of a tree rescue in Escondido where a trapped tree trimmer hung upside down for over "two hours .... after the skirt of the palm tree fell and pinned him 100 feet off the ground. Firefighters from Escondido, San Marcos, and CALFIRE were assisted by a couple of rescue trainer tree trimmers to safely lower the man to the ground."

As I scanned through mainstream news reports and social media posts, there were no fatalities reported regarding the aforementioned fire rescues.

"I have been following the Escondido Fire Department through the PulsePoint app," said Gregory Blomberg on January 12. "That has supplied me with the info I've needed, and nothing has been near enough to affect me, thankfully. It was interesting to see a cluster of fires in the last few days."

Airport parking garage fire

Blomberg is a hairstylist that lives close to the neighborhood where the recent palm tree rescue occurred. He's a member of Escondido Police Scanners, a Facebook group that utilizes phone apps to track their first responders' movements. Besides PulsePoint, his group uses Scanner Radio, which "re-broadcasts police departments' and fire departments' radio broadcasts from the Broadcastify scanner app."

Blomberg and some of his scanner buddies that have been listening to police and fire department dispatches for over eight years assume that onsite accidents during fire rescue efforts are the leading cause of death for our firefighters. But it's not. Occupational cancer is the leading cause of line-of-duty deaths for our firefighters.

"That is news to me," Blomberg said, "although I am not surprised considering the fumes they encounter."

“January is Firefighter Cancer Awareness month,” I said to Blomberg.

In 2010, National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health researchers, with the U.S. Fire Administration’s financial backing, launched a multi-year study to survey and examine if firefighters have an increased risk of cancer and other causes of death due to work-related exposures.

"With more than 30,000 career firefighters who served in Chicago, Philadelphia and San Francisco Fire Departments between 1950 and 2010," says the study in part that's shared onto the CDC.gov site, "it is the largest study of United States firefighters ever undertaken."

Kyle O'Neill is a 16-year veteran of the City of San Diego's Fire-Rescue Department and an occupational cancer survivor.

"My job, as a San Diego Fire-Rescue Department, Cancer and Health Coordinator, is to deal with the cancer epidemic for the fire department," he told me in a January 12 phone interview.

"The study is ongoing, and there are about four big studies, collectively that address the firefighter risk for cancer. We're 9 percent higher in contracting cancer compared to the general population and 14 percent higher in dying from cancer compared to the general population. We (in San Diego County) haven't had any active firefighters lost to cancer that I’ve seen. We’ve had retirees pass away, and the retirees, if they died of cancer, it's presumed that the cancer was contracted by deployment. So if you do pass away even in the retirement years, it's viewed as a line-of-duty death. For us, in the 2018 and 2019 years, 76 percent of the names added to the National Fallen Firefighters Memorial were due to cancer."

In the last two years, O'Neill has compiled about 100 names of City of San Diego's Fire-Rescue Department firefighters that have or had cancer.

"About 30-40 on that list are still active that have had cancer, which is pretty alarming. I don't have everybody's names, and I'm reaching out to retirees to find out the names of people that I haven't uncovered, and then there are a few that aren't going to say it because they don't want anybody to know."

“Cancer’s kind of that, that unforeseen circumstance. You don't know that it's working in the background," said Capt. Jesse Conner, president of the San Diego Firefighters Association in a 2019 KPBS News report. "You're exposed to carcinogens through smoke products that combustion for a long duration and you're absorbing, you're inhaling those things.”

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Jamul fire was captioned in part with #SanMiguelFire.
Jamul fire was captioned in part with #SanMiguelFire.

On January 10, SDFireBrigade posted an Instagram video of a burning truck in the "#sandiego .... airport parking garage" filmed by @OnSceneTV earlier that morning.

The day before and about 30 miles east of the San Diego International Airport, the City of San Diego's Fire-Rescue Department extinguished a fire burning through a house in Jamul, where two rooms were heavily damaged, according to the @CALFIRESANDIEGO Twitter page. The tweet depicted behind-the-scene photos of the fire rescue, and it was captioned in part with #SanMiguelFire, noting its likely source, the recently reported 20-acre brush fire at Mount San Miguel Park.

Last week, SDFireBrigade re-posted footage taken of a tree rescue in Escondido where a trapped tree trimmer hung upside down for over "two hours .... after the skirt of the palm tree fell and pinned him 100 feet off the ground. Firefighters from Escondido, San Marcos, and CALFIRE were assisted by a couple of rescue trainer tree trimmers to safely lower the man to the ground."

As I scanned through mainstream news reports and social media posts, there were no fatalities reported regarding the aforementioned fire rescues.

"I have been following the Escondido Fire Department through the PulsePoint app," said Gregory Blomberg on January 12. "That has supplied me with the info I've needed, and nothing has been near enough to affect me, thankfully. It was interesting to see a cluster of fires in the last few days."

Airport parking garage fire

Blomberg is a hairstylist that lives close to the neighborhood where the recent palm tree rescue occurred. He's a member of Escondido Police Scanners, a Facebook group that utilizes phone apps to track their first responders' movements. Besides PulsePoint, his group uses Scanner Radio, which "re-broadcasts police departments' and fire departments' radio broadcasts from the Broadcastify scanner app."

Blomberg and some of his scanner buddies that have been listening to police and fire department dispatches for over eight years assume that onsite accidents during fire rescue efforts are the leading cause of death for our firefighters. But it's not. Occupational cancer is the leading cause of line-of-duty deaths for our firefighters.

"That is news to me," Blomberg said, "although I am not surprised considering the fumes they encounter."

“January is Firefighter Cancer Awareness month,” I said to Blomberg.

In 2010, National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health researchers, with the U.S. Fire Administration’s financial backing, launched a multi-year study to survey and examine if firefighters have an increased risk of cancer and other causes of death due to work-related exposures.

"With more than 30,000 career firefighters who served in Chicago, Philadelphia and San Francisco Fire Departments between 1950 and 2010," says the study in part that's shared onto the CDC.gov site, "it is the largest study of United States firefighters ever undertaken."

Kyle O'Neill is a 16-year veteran of the City of San Diego's Fire-Rescue Department and an occupational cancer survivor.

"My job, as a San Diego Fire-Rescue Department, Cancer and Health Coordinator, is to deal with the cancer epidemic for the fire department," he told me in a January 12 phone interview.

"The study is ongoing, and there are about four big studies, collectively that address the firefighter risk for cancer. We're 9 percent higher in contracting cancer compared to the general population and 14 percent higher in dying from cancer compared to the general population. We (in San Diego County) haven't had any active firefighters lost to cancer that I’ve seen. We’ve had retirees pass away, and the retirees, if they died of cancer, it's presumed that the cancer was contracted by deployment. So if you do pass away even in the retirement years, it's viewed as a line-of-duty death. For us, in the 2018 and 2019 years, 76 percent of the names added to the National Fallen Firefighters Memorial were due to cancer."

In the last two years, O'Neill has compiled about 100 names of City of San Diego's Fire-Rescue Department firefighters that have or had cancer.

"About 30-40 on that list are still active that have had cancer, which is pretty alarming. I don't have everybody's names, and I'm reaching out to retirees to find out the names of people that I haven't uncovered, and then there are a few that aren't going to say it because they don't want anybody to know."

“Cancer’s kind of that, that unforeseen circumstance. You don't know that it's working in the background," said Capt. Jesse Conner, president of the San Diego Firefighters Association in a 2019 KPBS News report. "You're exposed to carcinogens through smoke products that combustion for a long duration and you're absorbing, you're inhaling those things.”

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