Funeral held for Fredericton firefighter who lost battle with occupational cancer

Click to play video: 'Firefighters pay tribute to Robert Berryman in Fredericton'
Firefighters pay tribute to Robert Berryman in Fredericton
WATCH ABOVE: Firefighters from across the Maritimes turned out in Fredericton to pay their respects to Robert Berryman, a retired officer who passed away from occupational throat cancer. Global’s Jeremy Keefe reports – Mar 28, 2016

Firefighters from throughout the Maritimes marched down Main Street in Fredericton today to honour a fallen colleague.

Robert Berryman passed away last week after a battle with throat cancer, which he developed on the job.

Although he’d been retired for the last few years his passing is considered a “line of duty death” as the cause stemmed from his work.

“This is the first one that we’ve had in 40 years so this is a little new for us…so we’re working through it,” said Fredericton Fire Department’s Assistant Deputy Chief, Dave McKinley.

“We’ve had five other line of duty deaths that happened right on the spot.”

McKinley added that this is the first death in the history of the department that comes as a result of occupational cancer, rather than a firefighting incident.

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McKinley said he knows of a similar situation occurring in Saint John in 2008.

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In the interest of keeping these scenarios at a very minimum, he says they ensure everyone in their ranks know the extreme importance of proper safety measures.

“We’re quite strict in making sure firefighters are wearing respiratory protection when they fight fires,” he said.

“It’s important to wear not just when the flames are rolling but after it’s out and you have smoke coming from the rubble, it’s important to wear respiratory protection because [the smoke] can cause cancer.”

Fredericton Firefighters Association President Evan Gilks says respiratory damage is a very real threat to those battling blazes head on.

“About 92 per cent of our line of duty deaths are cancer related so it is a real problem,” said Gilks.

He says that while they use high tech equipment, firefighters must still remain diligent in their protocols to ensure these incidents are minimized.

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“There’s been improvements over the years for sure, with self contained breathing apparatuses and the washing of the bunker gear,” Gilks said.

“We’re getting more and more critical with how we deal with things when we come back from structure fires.”

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