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Sterling Heights

October 8, 2012

Firefighters lighten up to promote breast cancer awareness

By Cortney Casey
C & G Staff Writer

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Sterling Heights Fire Department Sgt. Robert Haase stashes the Jaws of Life while wearing a pink shirt in support of Susan G. Komen Passionately Pink for the Cure. The firefighters will sport the shirts while on duty Oct. 10-12, and they’ll sell them for $20 at their Oct. 14 open house.

Real men — and women — wear pink.

Members of the Sterling Heights Fire Department will swap their usual dark-colored gear for eye-catching pink Oct. 10-12 in support of Susan G. Komen Passionately Pink for the Cure and October as Breast Cancer Awareness Month.

Besides sporting the shirts while on duty, the firefighters will sell them for $20 apiece at the department’s Oct. 14 open house at Fire Station No. 4.

“I realize the image of a rugged firefighter dressed in hot pink causes shock initially to those who will see our professionals in action on Oct. 10 through 12,” said interim Fire Chief Chris Martin. “But the men and women of the Sterling Heights Fire Department strive to assist people every day in many ways. We live by our motto that also adorns our fire engines: ‘Our Family Helping Yours.’”

The firefighters themselves footed the bill for the shirts, which were purchased at cost through Troy-based Off-Duty Wear; 100 percent of the sales will go to charity.

Martin said the firefighters sported pink shirts over a three-day period a few years back to boost awareness, but have never before sold them nor fundraised for Susan G. Komen for the Cure.

“What spurred it (this year) is the International Association of Fire Fighters took on breast cancer awareness for a cause for the month of October,” said Martin. “Through the firefighters, they decided to bring that to me and said, ‘Can we do this?’ And I said, ‘Absolutely.’”

While breast cancer awareness isn’t something most people would readily link to firefighters, cancer is, said Sgt. Robert Haase, president of IAFF Local 1557.

“We’ve had upward of six or seven of our own members in the last three or four years that have been diagnosed with some form of cancer, whether it be testicular, leukemia, prostate or non-Hodgkin lymphoma,” he said in a prepared statement. “We’ve had cancer touch all of our lives in the fire service, so even though it’s not breast cancer, it’s definitely something we want to promote and help raise money for the cure.”

Beyond the experience among their own ranks, Martin said the firefighters also frequently witness the effects of cancer firsthand during their medical emergency and hospice runs.

“Cancer’s a devastating thing,” he said. “You watch people suffer with it every day.”

This year represents the first time the Sterling Heights Fire Department has held an open house — which was a causality of budget cuts — since 2009. This time around, firefighters are volunteering their time to staff the event, which runs 11 a.m.-3 p.m. with displays, demonstrations, refreshments, safety information, kids’ activities and more. 

Fire Station No. 4 is located at 12850 15 Mile, west of Schoenherr. For more information, call Local 1557 at (586) 264-1798.

Donations also can be made online. Visit http://ww5.komen.org/GetInvolved/PassionatelyPink.html, click on Learn More and Give to a Team, then search for Sterling Heights Fire Fighters.