Firefighter’s Memorial Service Includes A Reflection On The Job’s Cancer Risks

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ITHACA, NY (WSKG) – Firefighter Daryl Pace, who died earlier this month from cancer, was memorialized Wednesday in Ithaca. According to the Ithaca Fire Department, the cancer that killed the 36-year-old woman was job-related cancer. Cancer is a leading cause of death among firefighters.

Dave Burbank

Ithaca Fire Fighter Daryl Pace, Ithaca, NY

Over 100 mourners, including representatives from neighboring fire departments, filled the auditorium at Boynton Middle School. Members of the Tompkins County Sheriff’s Department and the Ithaca Police Department stood at the back.

The memorial began with the distant sound of slow drum beats. They grew louder as the Edward P. Maloney Memorial Pipe Brigade slowly entered. 

Speakers included State Senator Tom O’Mara, Ithaca Mayor Svante Myrick and former Ithaca Fire Chief Brian Wilbur. They spoke of Pace’s love of the fire service and her community.

Near the end of his eulogy, Wilbur, who was the fire chief who hired Pace, took a moment to speak directly to the firefighters on the room.

“If Daryl were here,” he said, “she would tell you, just as I and others have been doing for years now. Don’t mess with cancer. It is insidious and relentless.”

A study by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health concludes firefighters’ exposure to known and suspected carcinogens puts them at greater risk than the general population of developing over a dozen types of cancers.

New York State Professional Firefighters Association President Sam Fresina said modern technologies and materials pose new risks to firefighters when they burn. 

“We’re fighting burning chemicals in fabrics,” he said. “We’re fighting cell phones computers, electronic equipment that’s burning and they all, they all have off gasses that are cancerous and deadly.”

Fresina said firefighters are taught about the risks and how to minimize them. He also said there are ways the public can help reduce their exposure to toxins.

“Have a plan to get out of the house,” he said. “Have a central meeting point and be there to notify the firefighters when they arrive that everyone is out of the house.”

An exit plan may help firefighters spend less time in a building and that minimizes their exposure to carcinogens.