PHOENIX — A firefighter has died from cancer contracted in the line of duty, United Phoenix Firefighters announced Thursday night.
The association said Phoenix firefighter Rick Telles has been battling an aggressive form of cancer he contracted as a result of being a firefighter.
"His family was everything to him," union spokesperson PJ Deal said. "And he had two families, his immediate family, his wife and kids, and his family at the fire station."
Telles worked for Phoenix Fire for 13 years, Deal said, mostly at the same firehouse.
Telles died peacefully Thursday afternoon surrounded by loved ones, United Phoenix Firefighters said.
But Deal said Telles's cancer was likely caused by firefighting. It's a trend seen nationwide as cancer is the leading cause of firefighter deaths.
Previously, Deal said, firefighters believed they were protecting from cancer-causing fumes and materials if they wore their firefighting turnouts and oxygen masks. But they've since come to realize they're not.
"You absorb so much of the toxins in your skin when you're exerting yourself," Deal said. "Those toxins retain in your gear that you could absorb down the road."
Congress passed a law in 2018 requiring the Centers for Disease Control to study rates of cancer in firefighters.
The Phoenix Fire Department confirmed Telles’s passing, sending a statement:
“The Phoenix Fire Department mourns the passing of Firefighter Rick Telles. Firefighter Telles’s commitment to excellence in all aspects of his profession made him an asset to the department and held him in the highest regard by his peers. Our profession is diminished in his absence.”