Another Washington firefighter dies of cancer, the leading cause of death in that field

Okanogan County is mourning the death of another beloved firefighter.

Fire District 6 says Chief Don Waller died early Wednesday morning following a tough battle with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.

Exposure to toxic smoke has made cancer the leading cause of death for firefighters.

Last December, the disease took the life of Spokane Valley Fire Captain Dave Phay. Seven days later, Spokane Valley Captain TIm Cruger died of cancer, as well.

Being exposed to cancerous smoke, the CDC says firefighters are 9% more likely to be diagnosed with cancer and 14% more likely to die from the disease compared to the general public.

Now, departments around the country have made it a goal to keep their gear as clean as their fire engines.

In departments like Spokane Valley Fire, cancer prevention starts at the fire scene. Before crews return to the station, firefighters are sprayed down and wipe the toxic chemicals off their skin.

Spokane Valley Fire says dirty gear is sealed in a plastic bag and later scrubbed before it goes into a $20,000 washing machine with special detergent.

All to protect the people like Chief Waller, who dedicated their lives to protecting the community.

At just 16, Waller started volunteering as a firefighter in Winthrop.

The Okanogan community just held another memorial service for another fallen hero. Assistant Chief Christian Johnson died from burns he received battling a forest fire.