Firefighter battling cancer speaks to save lives - Cleveland 19 News Cleveland, OH

Firefighter battling cancer speaks to save lives

Firefighter Mark Rine learned he had cancer after his fifth child was born. (Source: WOIO) Firefighter Mark Rine learned he had cancer after his fifth child was born. (Source: WOIO)
Since then, he's been speaking to fellow firefighters to promote safety. (Source: WOIO) Since then, he's been speaking to fellow firefighters to promote safety. (Source: WOIO)

We all know firefighters have dangerous jobs, but there's a hidden danger that could end up costing them their lives, years after they've put out a fire.

Mark Rine, a Columbus firefighter, has stage four melanoma. There is no cure. He was diagnosed shortly after his fifth child was born two years ago. 

In the face of his own mortality, he's found the courage to speak to try to save the lives of others. Rine is convinced, and uses numerous studies as support, that fighting fires led to his cancer. In Cleveland speaking to firefighters, he urged his brothers to take a stake in their own safety. 

"Our goal here is to open the eyeballs of the state. This is an epidemic that's not going anywhere," he said.

The numbers are stunning. In a PowerPoint presentation Rine delivered to Cleveland firefighters, numbers showed that one of every 14 Columbus firefighters has cancer, compared to just one of every 176 people in the general Columbus population. Skin cancer is the clear majority of the cancers Columbus firefighters are fighting. 

The link between firefighters and cancer, and Rine cites several studies and sources, is in the chemicals that are used in the production of our houses and household goods. As those fires burn, those chemicals, some of them carcinogens, are released and eventually work their way into the skin of firefighters. Prolonged exposure, Rine says, predictably ends with a cancer diagnosis.
  
Firefighters are being urged to wear their gear for the entirety of any fire call and shower after every call. Rine believes it is critical that firefighters go to great lengths to make sure their gear is thoroughly cleaned after every call.

Rine spends a significant amount of time traveling and spreading the word about the threat of cancer, but he has also turned the needs of his own family, as he struggles through chemotherapy. 

"The children know that they can come to me or mom any time they want to talk about it. We'll discuss in detail if need be, but they handle it really well," he said.

Rine hopes Ohio incorporates the cancer presumption law for firefighters, providing benefits to families of firefighters who die from cancer. Currently, only 33 states have the law. 

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