The Brainerd Fire Department is in a pink mood and beside fighting fires, firefighters will be raising awareness in support of the fight against breast cancer and other cancers.
The seven full-time fire equipment operators are wearing pink T-shirts during their 24-hour shifts to raise awareness through the month of October, which is Breast Cancer Awareness Month.
The awareness campaign is one that the full-time firefighters’ union, the International Association of Fire Fighters (IAFF), encourages its affiliates to conduct in support of the fight against breast and other cancers.
“Breast cancer and other cancers are a huge deal with firefighters and the IAFF is very supportive,” said Charlie Dunemann, president of the local IAFF No. 4725 union. “We deal with many people on a daily basis who have cancer and if we can help find a cure for them it benefits everyone.”
Dunemann said cancer is so prominent that people don’t have to go far to find someone they know who has cancer.
“There is a history of cancer in my family,” said Dunemann. “I’ve had some aunts who had breast cancer.”
Brainerd Fire Chief Kevin Stunek, a cancer survivor himself, said, “Finding a cure for all cancers is a huge deal in the world. We want to help spread the word about the fight against breast cancer, for all cancer.”
Stunek said even though this is a union initiative, the Brainerd Fire Department has taken on the task to have all firefighters join in the fight against breast cancer. Stunek said the paid-on call firefighters will be offered pink ribbons for them to use to spread the word.
“We’ve bringing everyone together on this,” said Stunek. “It was a group decision to support this cause. “
Mark Turner and Cory Zeien, full-time fire equipment operators, wore their pink T-shirts Monday during their 24-hour shift. They said people were asking them about the T-shirts and what it was about. The firefighters shared the breast cancer awareness campaign with the students at Lowell Elementary School, where they were teaching them about fire safety.
“It’s important to support the fight against breast cancer,” said Turner. “If we can help in the fight to find a cure for cancer it is a good thing. My step-mom passed away from cancer when I was 17.”
Zeien said, “Wearing T-shirts is the least we can do to show our support in the fight against breast cancer and all cancers.”
“It’s a good thing,” said Kevin Tengwall, a full-time fire equipment operator. “Pink is known for breast cancer and I support the fight against it and the other cancers. My grandma was a 35-year breast cancer survivor.”