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Lompoc firefighter diagnosed with colon cancer on track to finish treatment early

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Posted at 4:38 PM, Dec 21, 2019
and last updated 2019-12-21 19:38:13-05

You may notice a blue ribbon decal on the passenger side of Lompoc Fire Department's engines.

Department members are supporting their friend and fellow engineer, Chris Martinez, as he battles colon cancer.

Martinez learned he had a cancerous mass in his color after his blood work came back irregular during the department's annual NFPA 1582 medical evaluation.

According to the Lompoc Fire Department, cancer in the fire service has now become one of the leading causes of death and firefighters are at a greater risk of being diagnosed with cancer than the general population.

Officials say increased risk comes from exposure to diesel particulates or the byproducts of combustion that fill the air during fires.

In a press release, the Lompoc Fire Department said, "As the fire service continues to gather more education and awareness about the risks of repeated exposure to various carcinogens, the Department has begun adopting policies that help address the issue through training and equipment decontamination. "

Fire officials hope these policies limit firefighter's exposure around the station and at the scene of emergencies.

Martinez is working with doctors and family members to complete a quick and aggressive cancer treatment, but fire officials say Martinez will be returning to work soon.

Recently, he had the mass in his colon and 45 lymph nodes removed. The department said he is on track to finish a six month chemotherapy treatment a round early.

The fire department says Martinez continues to persevere, set an example and inspire those around him.

When chemotherapy prevented him from exercising in the sun, he changed his morning beach run to 4 a.m. and often times would be accompanied by his friends and firefighter family.

Blue ribbon decal and "Martinez Strong" rubber bracelets are little ways friends, family and colleagues are showing him love and support during his battle.

The Lompoc Fire Department says their members are grateful for the support of the community as Martinez continues to heal.