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'We Don't Want It To Happen Again': Westminster Fire Rescue Fighting #1 Killer In Their Profession

WESTMINSTER, Colo (CBS4) - While firefighters run toward danger every single day, cancer remains the number one killer nationwide for the profession. Now, Westminster Fire Rescue is taking a major step to better protect the men and women of its ranks.

On Tuesday, the department announced it was partnering with a California-based health care company to offer multi-cancer early detection blood tests.

"Everybody is probably going to be on edge, but at least they're going to have the early detection, if need be," said Eric Stones, a firefighter at Station 2.

(credit: CBS)

Twenty two years later, Stones is as proud as he's ever been of his career with Westminster Fire. It's a job he finds both camaraderie and service every day, despite the short and long-term dangers.

"It's always in the back of everybody's mind. If it's not, then they're not thinking straight," he said.

Last year, those dangers reared their ugly head when Stones was diagnosed with early-stage prostate cancer. While unsettling, the cancer was treatable, unlike with Ct. Dave Sagel's. The veteran of the department lost his battle with job-related cancer just months before.

"We lost an amazing individual a couple years ago to cancer and we don't want it to happen again," said Bat. Chief David Varney.

Now, in an effort to do even more, Westminster Fire is working with the health care company, Grail to offer early detection blood tests to each firefighter. It's the first department in the state to do so, Varney said.

(credit: CBS)

"It allows us to look into the future of 50 different types of cancers that aren't tested currently," Varney said.

According to Varney, the highest risk firefighters will be tested first, but everyone will eventually be screened. The tests will begin next week.

"Cancer is the number one cause of firefighter deaths as of today," Varney said. "The key of this all is to identify in the early stages, and not allow it to go into the third or fourth stage."

It's a philosophy Stones is living proof of, and why he'll gladly do more tests moving forward.

"I have retirement coming up in a few years, and I want to be able to enjoy my retirement and live a long, fruitful life afterwards," Stones said.

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