Orange Co. firefighter loses battle to cancer, brings awareness to cancer-related deaths


Memorial service held for retired firefighter

Fallen Orange County Fire Rescue Lt. Eric Siena was commemorated Monday at First Baptist Church Orlando. He died at just 46 years old after years of battling brain cancer.

ORLANDO, Fla. – Retired Orange County Fire Rescue Lt. Eric Siena will be honored on Monday after losing his battle with cancer. Now his story draws attention to cancer in firefighters.

Fallen Orange County Fire Rescue Lt. Eric Siena is commemorated Monday at First Baptist Church Orlando. He died at just 46 years old after years of battling brain cancer.

“We are just so proud of Eric and the sacrifices he has made and all the firefighters out there for their community,” said division chief Mike Wajda.

Lt. Siena served on an elite heavy duty rescue team, which is one of the strongest units out there.

“He was trained to handle chemicals, climbed very high obstacles and saved people in every situation,” said Wajda. “He was 911 for 911.”

His fellow firefighters not only said goodbye to him on Monday, but were also there to comfort the wife and children he left behind. His wife is also a retired lieutenant in the department.

“Not only were they firefighters caring for the sick and injured, but they were also leaders,” said Wajda.

Siena died on the job, and while it wasn’t while fighting the flames, Orange County Fire Rescue says he died because of his job. They say his cancer was caused by exposure while on duty.

Across the country, firefighters are exposed to hundreds of different chemicals and some are known or suspected to cause cancer. Cancer is a leading cause of death among firefighters, according to the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health. The agency says studies have found that firefighters are facing a 14 percent increase in cancer deaths compared to the general public.

Orange County Fire Rescue is doing what they can to protect themselves from the same fate.

“Clean themselves as soon as possible after a fire, disinfect their belongings and learn the lessons we learn from these kinds of tragedies,” said Wajda.

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