Fire chiefs learn about preventing cancer at symposium

COLUMBUS (WCMH) — The Ohio Fire Academy is bringing together fire service leaders from all over the Buckeye State. It’s a two-day course that provides valuable information, as well as networking opportunities for these fire fighters.

Every day, firefighters put their lives on the line for the job they love, protecting their community and its citizens. But today, fire chiefs from across Ohio received a different message on what it means to put your life on the line for the job you love — even if it could give you cancer.

“The need to understand is huge,” said Mark Rine, a Columbus firefighter living with cancer.

Mark Rine is 35 years old. He’s been a firefighter and a paramedic with the Columbus Division of Fire since 2006. On Sept. 11, 2012, Rine’s world would forever change: He was diagnosed with stage four melanoma. He got it from exposure to cancer-causing materials while serving and protecting the community he loves.

“There is a right way to do this job, and a way we can still do the job that we love. We can still serve the communities that we love, and we can still go home and enjoy our families and have a long healthy life,” Rine said.

“We are glad to be a part of the message and a part of changing the culture with firefighters,” said Larry Flowers, State Fire Marshal.

Flowers said it once was a badge of honor for a firefighter to walk around with a dirty helmet, dirty boots and jacket.

“The research now has connected the dots. That there are a higher percentage of folks that are getting cancer because of being exposed to those types of things,” said Flowers.

About 1 in 10 firefighters end up with a cancer diagnosis. Rine hopes to use his story and message to save lives.

“Is my story important? To me it is. I don’t know if it is important to them, but my story is the gateway into educating them,” he said.

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