Fitchburg fire captain hoping to buck deadly family tradition

FITCHBURG, Mass. — Fire Captain Patrick Roy has spent the last 14 years on the Fitchburg Fire Department.

He comes from a long line of family members who've also worked there, including his father and brother.

"It's really a family tradition, I guess," he told Boston 25 News. "I loved going to fires, watching fires as a kid...learning the job and the day I got sworn in to be a firefighter, it was a dream come true."

Over the years, that dream was tested. So many firefighters have faced a higher risk of cancer because of years of facing toxic chemicals.

That included Roy's father James, who was diagnosed with skin cancer.

"His helmet was black with soot, but in those days, that was the mentality," Roy said. "The darker the helmet, the more aggressive you were."

The cancer was just as aggressive because it quickly spread to James' lymph nodes and mouth.

"It was roughly a year before everything went down, that's how quick it was," Roy said.

It's been seven years since he lost his father. It's still a struggle, partly because of the others he's seen fall.

"The mentality is killing us and making us sick throughout the state and you wouldn't believe it," he said. "It's the leading cause of line of duty death."

It's now Roy's mission to make people believe by sharing his story and his pain. He now shares the warnings to anyone who will listen at events and teaching young recruits at the fire academy.

"I don't want any firefighter throughout the state to ever have to go through what my family had to go through," he said.

Roy is also working with the local group, 1540 Connection. They're helping to teach firefighters how to help themselves by early detection. They offer free education programs for all first responders.

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