GREEN BAY, Wis. (WFRV) – Four fallen Green Bay firefighters officially had their deaths reclassified as line-of-duty.
Their names were added to the Fallen Firefighter Memorial Wall in Colorado.
This distinction comes decades after their deaths and a ceremony was held to honor them.
Cancer is now recognized as a job-related cause of death for firefighters and Green Bay formally recognized four of their own:
Milton Neuman, died February 13, 1959
Norbert VandenBranden, died March 19, 1972
Roman Clark, died June 13, 1972
James Mommaerts, died May 24, 1973
This remembrance ceremony is a long-overdue formal recognition, says Lieutenant David Siegel, “one of the very important things I’ve heard from two of the families is that we always thought dad died because of what happened on the job.”
Firefighting is one of the most dangerous professions.
In fact, firefighters have a greater risk of cancer-related deaths than the general population.
Fire Chief David Litton notes, “firefighters, are 202 percent more likely to get 10 different types of cancer.”
The problem is the plastics that exist in our homes or businesses, according to Lieutenant Siegel, “the smoke from plastics is so dangerous, it’s full of toxins. We didn’t recognize that back then, so we didn’t clean our gear.”
Now post-fire gear is considered lethal, and Green Bay’s procedures reflect this says, Fire Chief Litton, “we have two sets of turnout gear for every firefighter, so they are not walking around with carcinogens on them. Firefighters are not allowed to take their gear inside the station. Overall, there are about 15 protocols that we’ve put in place to help reduce the carcinogens that firefighters are exposed to.”