CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas — Firefighters are heroes, serving the community any time they get a call.
"You give everything you got and at the end of the day it's a really rewarding job," Mark Solis, a firefighter and engineer with the Corpus Christi Fire Department said.
However, it's also a dangerous job. When they're walking through fire, they're still burned with the aftermath of their response. Several studies say cancer is the most dangerous and overlooked threat to the health and safety of our nation's firefighters.
Fire fighters have a nine percent greater risk of being diagnosed with cancer than the general public and a 14 percent higher risk of dying from occupational cancer than the general public.
A 2015 federal study found that firefighters are twice as likely to suffer from testicular cancer and malignant mesothelioma. They have higher rates for many other malignancies, as well as cancers of the lung, colon and urinary tract.
The American Cancer Society said part of the cause is a firefighter's exposure to chemicals and smoke. Corpus Christi Firefighters say buildings today are filled with furnishings and other objects made of synthetics and can produce a poisonous cloud when they burn.
"Every fire we're at, it's more of a HAZMAT scene than it is a fire, just because of all the chemicals on there." said Solis. "We think about our own safety on scene, about going home and being safe, but we don't think about the stuff that arises five, six, seven, 10 years later."
For Solis, it was after working 22 years with the CCFD, that he was diagnosed with Stage 4 Colon Cancer. He received the news last August
"That was the hardest part, telling my kids I had cancer. But at that point we decided we gotta fight and from that part forward, I called my surgeon and said let's get going."
Every other week he has chemotherapy. Despite the circumstances, Solis is looking at the bright side thanks to support from his family, fellow firefighters, and even people he's never met before, like Pete Trevino.
Trevino is no stranger to helping those in the Coastal Bend. His efforts continue, with a plan to organize a Barbeque Benefit for Solis.
"He said, 'I want to do this, this is what I do. I love to give back, you've given to this community for 22 years and I want to give back to you.' And I was floored," Solis explained.
Solis is now hoping to pay it forward. He said some of the proceeds from the benefit will go to the fire department's Cancer Awareness Relief Effort (CARE).
It's important to him, not only because he has cancer, but also because several of his peers had to fight it too. In the last 10 years, Solis said 15 people within the department have been diagnosed and one person died of occupational cancer a couple of years ago.
If you want to support the fire fighter and help raise awareness for occupational cancer, you can go to the Barbeque Benefit at the Corpus Christi Professional Firefighter's Association building at 6014 Ayers Street. The benefit is scheduled for Feb.18, at 11 a.m. and will continue until food runs out.
Those who would like to help in other ways or donate food and supplies, or want more information, can call Pete Trevino at (361)-815-5199.