West Metro Firefighter’s Leukemia Death Stands As A Reminder Of On The Job Carcinogen Risks

A West Metro firefighter has died from cancer that's believed to be job-related. His death comes just months after another Colorado firefighter died from work-related cancer in November.

The February death of Dan Moran, an 18-year veteran firefighter and paramedic for West Metro Fire Rescue, follows his 2017 diagnosis for leukemia.

The other firefighter, Troy Jackson, who worked with South Metro Fire Rescue for nearly 30 years, died of a different type of cancer that was determined to be work-related. The department made changes to its hygiene practices that were also implemented at West Metro Fire Rescue, said Capt. Travis Hopwood who oversees the department's safety.

Changes include immediate decontamination of suits after fighting fires, as well as the use of specialty wipes to remove carcinogens from exposed skin. Firefighters also have two sets of uniforms with full gear, so that one can be deep-cleaned after each use.

Hopwood said it wasn't until the recent spike in cancers across the country that more attention has been paid to potential exposures. For those who have worked in the business for many years, the new changes may not come in time.

"With the advent of plastics being introduced into household products and everything from the cushions that we sit on to what's in the walls and everything else, the smoke is not just burning wood like you're having a campfire anymore from the timbers in the walls," Hopwood said. "It's plastics and nasty, nasty stuff that we're exposed to every day when we're on a fire call."

Cancer is a leading cause of firefighter deaths, according to the International Association of Firefighters, which represents more than 318,000 full-time firefighters and paramedics.

Moran died of a type of leukemia that's been associated with exposure to diesel byproducts.

"We have diesel exhaust removal equipment within our apparatus bays so that it is plumbed up and out, and so it doesn't fill our apparatus bays with exhaust," Hopwood said. "And so we're trying to mitigate that. But that certainly is a recognizable risk."

A longtime friend of Moran, Lt. Jeff Delgado said he was a loud guy who was always in a good mood.

"He was fun to be around and could be argumentative just for the simple fact of arguing," Delgado said. "He was just a good guy."

For those that knew him, Moran's death was a personal loss and a loss to the department he dedicated his career to. But, Delgado said the death of a fellow firefighter "puts our careers and our own mortality in perspective."

Gov. Jared Polis ordered flags lowered to half staff on all public buildings statewide from sunrise to sunset on Monday, Feb. 17, 2020, to honor Moran. His memorial service will also be the same day in Arvada. He is survived by his wife Jenn, and two daughters, Taylor and Madyson.

Editor's Note: An earlier version of this story incorrectly identified the city where Dan Moran served as a firefighter. He served in the West Metro Fire Department.