New Bedford firefighter dies of occupational cancer –

By daniellenierenberg

NEW BEDFORD The New Bedford Fire Department is mourning the death of one of their own.

On Monday morning Russ Horn, who worked for the department for over 30 years, died of occupational cancer, according to the president of New Bedford Firefighters Union, Billy Sylvia.

Sylvia said Horn, who was in his 50s, was forced to retire from the department after being diagnosed with multiple myeloma.

According to a patient blog on the Dana Farber Cancer Institutes website, Horn was diagnosed with cancer of plasma cells in 2014 after a minor slip at work sent him to the emergency room. There they discovered he had two broken ribs and a punctured lung as a result of the cancer already attacking his bones.

After receiving stem cell transplants and participating in clinical trials, Horn retired from the department in 2017.

Firefighters face a 1.53 times greater risk of getting multiple myeloma, according to the Firefighter Cancer Support Network.

Sylvia said he has seen a lot of cancer diagnoses among his colleagues in his 14 years as a firefighter, its adding up really quickly... its more than a handful.

We have active guys dealing with this, we have guys that are contracting it after retirement... studies show how much more susceptible we are, Sylvia said.

Its more than just the smoke theyre breathing thats putting them at risk, according to Sylvia; firefighters also can end up absorbing things through their skin and some of its coming from the gear thats supposed to protect us.

The issue is affecting firefighters across the country, Sylvia said, Were learning more and more, trying to get it under control, but theres still a lot of work that can be done.

Sylvia said Horns family has been proactive about making firefighters aware of their cancer risk and teaching them what to look for and the importance of early cancer screenings.

He was a very strong individual, both mentally and physically, Sylvia said of Horn, Eventually it just took its toll.

In 2019, Horn told Dana-Farber, Id do it all again, referring to his 30 years as a firefighter. This has been really hard, but having the guys behind me 100 percent makes it all a little easier.

Both the New Bedford Fire Department and the union have updated their profile pictures on Facebook to include a black stripe over their logos, honoring Horn.

In a post to the unions Facebook page announcing Horns passing, Sylvia said, Russ was the perfect example of what a firefighter, husband, father, and friend, that anyone could ever be. He was surrounded by his family, friends, brother and sisters firefighters throughout his fight and now beyond.

Sylvia closed the post with, We Love You Russ, Well see you again At the Big One.

On their own Facebook page the New Bedford Fire Department posted, "Our hearts are broken as we learned this morning that our retired brother, FF Russell Horn has lost his brave and courageous battle. We will never forget you and we will keep your family in our thoughts and prayers."

This story will be updated as more information becomes available.

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New Bedford firefighter dies of occupational cancer -

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