• Fallen firefighter's wife working to warn departments of cancer danger

    By: Blair Miller

    Updated:

    CHELSEA, Mass. - The wife of a fallen firefighter is making it her mission to help other first responders and prevent tragedies like the one that killed her husband.

    He died earlier this month from cancer and a result of years of being exposed to intense fires.

    Firefighter Pete Kannler was just 37-years-old when he died.

    He and his wife had two daughters and life was busy like most young families, but that all changed last year.

    "It was his world," Michelle said. "That was absolutely his world."

    His world came to an end just 27-days-ago. Pete Kannler, a Chelsea Firefighter who spent a lifetime fighting fires died at the age of 37 from cancer.

    "We didn't [know something was wrong]. We had no idea anything was wrong.  He was not symptomatic," Michelle explained.

    She says Pete had hurt his foot and the pain wouldn't go away.

    "He was taking the high doses of Motrin every day and I was at work one day and he called me and said, 'I think I think have a bleed.'" Michelle said. "It wasn't an ulcer bleeding, it was a tumor."

    Less than 13 months later, Pete was gone.

    "The goal was just to get him as much time as we could," she said. "It was so fast."

    Years of battling intense fires and chemicals is what doctors said lead to his cancer.

    With the flowers from his service still hanging in their home, and surrounded by his memories, Michelle now finds it her calling to help other firefighters.

    "It's not only getting word out about how serious the cancer is in the fire service.  It's also what can we do to help prevent this from happening to somebody else," she told FOX25. "Pushing for changes within the fire service, including cancer screenings at a young age. A wake up call for everyone."

    "We all have to do more. We all have to make sure we're looking at ways to keep fellow firefighters safe. We've all learned from Pete's death," Chelsea firefighter Mike Massucci said.

    Michelle and Pete had two kids together and a lifetime full of dreams still to be pursued.

    "I miss him more than the world, more than the world and I would do anything to prevent this from happening to another young family," Michelle told FOX25.
     
    The Boston Fire Department also recently raised concerns about this issue. They, along with Chelsea, are pushing to make sure firefighters are wearing their masks during all fires and looking at ways that would help their crews in the long run.

    Michelle Kannler says it's a wakeup call for so many.

    The Chelsea Fire Department says it has purchased second sets of gear for every firefighter, so when they come back from a fire, they have an extra set clean in case they are called out while washing their gear.

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