Relay walk close to heart for firefighters

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Firefighters taking part in Relay for Life this weekend will be walking in solidarity with colleagues, family and friends affected by cancer.

The 17-strong Fire & Emergency NZ (Fenz) team, led by qualified firefighter Aaron Menzies, will be highly visible at this weekend’s Cancer Society Otago-Southland Relay for Life in Dunedin.

Their fire engines will be parked close to the Caledonian Ground, ready for a quick getaway if a call-out comes, and they plan to walk some laps fully decked out in protective gear and breathing apparatus.

Mr Menzies said the event would be a chance to have fun and meet people as well as to support those affected by cancer.

The thoughts of team members would be with the family of Lookout Point Fire Station-based firefighter Sean Stocker, whose 6-year-old son Isaac is being treated for cancer.

“It has been important for us to have the support of the guys and of family, and also of the Cancer Society,” Mr Stocker said.

When Isaac was diagnosed with cancer recently, the family had only a day and a-half to prepare for a six-month stay in Christchurch for Isaac’s treatment.

“The Cancer Society immediately came round and dropped off fuel vouchers, which made a big difference at a stressful time,” he said.

“I think it’s good for people to know that even a small donation can make a huge difference to someone.”

Fenz assistant area manager Craig Geddes said firefighters were over-represented in cancer statistics, both in New Zealand and internationally.

“All of us are affected when colleagues, their wives, partners, or children are battling cancer,” he said.

Recently, in Dunedin, firefighter John Griffiths was lost to cancer, and he would be in the thoughts of Fenz team members at the weekend.

Fenz was working to counteract carcinogens encountered by firefighters during their day-to-day duties, including protecting them from the effects of diesel fumes and toxins they encountered at fires.

“And we have become a lot more proactive about careful handling of personal protection equipment after it has been worn at a fire,” Mr Geddes said.

Mr Menzies said the Fenz team had been fundraising for Relay For Life and was on top of the table with $5000 raised.