Riverview marks first line-of-duty death of firefighter

The first firefighter from Riverview to have his death classed as a "line of duty" death will be remembered at a memorial service on Tuesday.

Retired Capt. Charley Boomer contracted kidney cancer after 29 years of fighting fires

The first firefighter from Riverview, N.B., to have his death classed as a "line of duty" death was remembered at a memorial service on Tuesday.

Retired Capt. Charley Boomer died last week from kidney cancer after serving the department for 29 years. He was nine years into his retirement.

Retired Capt. Charley Boomer is the first Riverview firefighter to have his death classed as a "line of duty" death from cancer.

An honour guard marched from the Riverview fire hall to the church where the service was held. Boomer's son, Troy, himself a firefighter, delivered the eulogy.

"Dad knew that firefighting was a dangerous profession,” he said. "And he knew what the risks were when he took this path in his life and what the ultimate sacrifice was.

"And that's what he did, he made the ultimate sacrifice. He ended up giving his life to protect others."

Since 2009, New Brunswick's Fire Fighters Compensation Act has considered cancers - including kidney, brain and lung cancers - to be occupational hazards for fire fighters.

Oromocto fire Chief Jody Price was involved in getting the legislation passed.

"It's made it easier on firefighters and their families when they contract one of these cancers that are significantly higher amongst firefighters than the ordinary population.

"It's made it easy for them to receive treatments, advanced treatments if required."

Moncton fire Chief Eric Arsenault said the legislation speaks to the toxic environment firefighters have to work in.

"There are a lot of chemical components in smoke and other elements that we have to deal with on a daily basis that over prolonged exposure can cause some very serious health effects,” he said.

An honour guard marches to the funeral of Capt. Charley Boomer, a retired Riverview firefighter. (CBC)

For instance, kidney cancer is deemed to be job-related for a firefighter with 20 years service. For lung cancer, the threshold is 15 years. For leukemia, it's five years.

Brain, bladder, colorectal, esophageal, testicular and urethral cancers and non-Hodgkins lymphoma  are also viewed as occupations hazards if contracted by firefighers after varying lengths of service.

Firefighters said Tuesday that Boomer will be missed.

"We're here at the fire hall today, not getting a lot of housework done. We're telling a lot of stories of Charley," said Dennis Woods, president of local 2549 of the Professional Fire Fighters union. 

"Charley was a firefighter's firefighter, not afraid to tell you the way it was," said Woods. "And he got away with it most of the time."

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