WHITERSBORO, N.Y. — Former Whitesboro fire chief Brian McQueen has spent his post-firefighting career giving presentations on the increased risk of cancer for volunteer firefighters.
“63 percent of firefighters, no matter what the age, no matter Irish or Italian, will come down with cancer if we don’t take the necessary steps to be able to protect ourselves,” McQueen said.
One of the things he’s had to contend with is firefighters’ image of themselves.
“Cancer is going to affect you,” McQueen said. “You’re not the macho image that we were 20, 25 years ago, when we can walk around with salty-looking faces and salty-looking gear.”
McQueen is the cancer committee chair of the national volunteer fire council. The battle for him is a personal one, as he was diagnosed with non-Hodgkins lymphoma eight years ago. he was told the condition was directly related to his work as a firefighter.
“84 thousand chemicals in the building industry today,” McQueen said. “Put that together, you’re not going into a fire, Yyou’re going into a hazmat call.”
Now, McQueen provides a two-hour training course to volunteer fire departments that want to help. He’s a training officer at the Whitesboro Fire Department.
“One of the first things we do is provide them with that cancer program. It’s a two-hour program we do, that’s open and we will go anywhere to teach that program,” McQueen said.