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Rohwer advocated for firefighter safety

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FARMINGTON — A Farmington firefighter who died from job-related cancer, and had dedicated his time to keeping his fellow firefighters healthy and safe while on the job, was recognized by two national firefighter memorials in recent weeks.

Farmington Fire Department Firefighter Lt. Jacob Shadd Rohwer, who died of cancer on Jan. 11, 2018, was recognized during the 2019 International Association of Firefighters Fallen Fire Fighter Memorial Service on Sept. 21 in Colorado Springs, Colorado and the 38th National Fallen Firefighters Memorial Service on Oct. 6 at the National Fire Academy in Emmitsburg, Maryland.

Farmington fire officials believe Rohwer's cancer diagnosis was caused by exposure to hazardous chemicals in the line of duty.

A memorial to Rohwer was dedicated on May 19, 2018, in Animas Park after the River Reach Foundation and Farmington Professional Firefighters Union raised $18,000 to construct it.

Farmington Fire Chief David Burke said the department has been working diligently since Rohwer died to make sure their work environment is as safe as possible for fire employees.

"It brings some sad memories but reiterates and reinvigorates our priorities to make sure this doesn't happen again," Burke said about Rohwer's recognition.

Engineer Kilian Carey attended the ceremonies in Colorado and Maryland.

About 30 people traveled to Colorado Springs for the ceremony, including members of the Farmington Fire Honor Guard team and the department.

Rohwer was the first line-of-duty death for the Farmington Fire Department, according to Carey.

"It was a very humbling experience," Carey said. "It's something we never wanted to go through."

There were 254 names recognized during the ceremony.

Rohwer's name is engraved on a granite wall along with other firefighters who died during 2018.

Farmington fire Captain Tom Anderson presented an American flag to Shadd's mother, Joan Rohwer, during the ceremony.

Other firefighters also got to participate in the ceremony, including carrying the department's flag into the memorial.

The Oct. 6 ceremony was held at the National Fire Academy in Emmitsburg, Maryland, where Rohwer's name was added to the National Fallen Firefighters Memorial.

The ceremony is sponsored by the Department of Homeland Security’s U.S. Fire Administration and National Fallen Firefighters Foundation.

Carey and Firefighter Gary Groomer traveled to Maryland with members of Rohwer's family.

Funds from the 9/11 Memorial Stair Climb hosted by Farmington fire paid for the expenses for members of Rohwer's family to travel for the ceremony.

The fundraiser brought in about $38,000 during the Sept. 14 event at Ricketts Park in Farmington.

It was the first year for the National Fallen Firefighters Memorial to recognize firefighters whose deaths resulted from infection, disease and cancer, according to Carey.

The foundation's website states the criteria only applies to deaths which occurred after Jan. 1, 2018.

Carey said it was tough to attend the Oct. 6 event as it brought back memories of Rohwer, but it helped provide some closure for him.

He added Rohwer didn't die in vain and that his legacy lives on at the department.

Joshua Kellogg covers breaking news for The Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4627 or via email at jkellogg@daily-times.com.

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