Study: Firefighters have a higher cancer risk


FARMINGTON — A Farmington firefighter died Thursday from a cancer that may have been caused by fighting fires, according to Acting Fire Chief David Burke.

Lt. Shadd Rohwer, 44, died at approximately 10:10 a.m. Thursday after several years of battling cancer, according to a press release from the city of Farmington.

Rohwer's family gave Burke permission to speak to the media about the illness, but Burke did not receive permission to name the type of cancer with which Rowher was diagnosed. Burke said the cancer has been preidentified as being a risk to firefighters.

Because Rohwer likely got cancer from fighting fires, his death is considered a line-of-duty death, according to the press release from the city. 

"He had a great attitude and was very positive all the time," Burke said.

He said Rohwer took pride in his job. He said if a question came up that needed answers, Rohwer would thoroughly research the topic. Rowher was on the swift water rescue team and the tech team, and spent most of his time at station 2 in east Farmington.

Burke said the first signs that Rohwer had cancer were detected during an annual physical the department requires firefighters to have. Following the physical, Rohwer was screened for cancer and diagnosed in June 2015.

A study of nearly 30,000 firefighters that the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health completed in 2015 found firefighters are more likely to be diagnosed with cancer than the general population.

The study found firefighters have a 9 percent higher risk of being diagnosed with cancer than the general population and are 14 percent more likely to die of cancer.

Burke said Rohwer wanted to educate his fellow firefighters about reducing the risk of cancer. He said firefighters should properly use and maintain personal protective equipment. Burke said maintaining an active lifestyle also helps reduce the risk of cancer.

Burke described Rohwer as a great firefighter and leader who had a good relationship with the community.

"His absence is going to create a hole for the organization," Burke said.

Hannah Grover covers government for The Daily Times. She can be reached at 505-564-4652 or via email at

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