The recent death of an Arlington (NY) Fire District captain who succumbed to cancer-related illnesses is being classified as a “Line of Duty Death” (LODD) by the Arlington Board of Fire Commissioners. Retired Captain Jeff Pells, a 36-year veteran of the Arlington Fire District died on January 23, 2022. Pells considered being a career firefighter his “dream job.” The well-respected Pells spent years as a volunteer fireman with Arlington Fire Department before being hired as a professional firefighter by the district on July 25, 1983.
Pells rose through the ranks of Arlington and was promoted to lieutenant in 1988. Serving as a lieutenant for 10 years, he was promoted to deputy chief in 1998. A restructuring of ranks by the district eliminated that title and Pells was reclassified as captain in 2011. Pells retired in 2017 with health issues.
The union representing the Arlington firefighters, IAFF Local 2393, led by Captain Joe Tarquinio, has argued that the death of Pells was a LODD due to cancer caused by years of fighting fires with hazardous and toxic materials.
“Numerous studies have proven that the cancer rate among firefighters, especially career firefighters, is unusually high and is indicative of the risks we take.” With the LODD designation, Tarquinio said “Our commissioners have recognized that Captain Pells gave his life for the residents of the district by dying from cancer which is an enormous occupational hazard in our profession.”
Several studies have determined that numerous forms of cancer are occupational hazards for firefighters. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer has spent years securing funding to track firefighter cancer, and Poughkeepsie firefighter Jimmy Brugger, a cancer survivor, has supported the initiative.