Brittney Burns – Staff Writer

The second leading cause of death in Macon County by age adjusted mortality rate is cancer. Macon County’s cancer rate is above the state average and impacts countless families each year. Relay for Life works tirelessly to raise awareness and funds for research with the goal of finding a cure.

Emergency services personnel in Macon County are coming together to raise money for Relay For Life by hosting a fire truck pull and community event in the Big Lots parking lot in the Franklin Plaza on Saturday.

“Cancer is a real tough topic for us as firefighters,” said Gabriel Bolick, a fire fighter with Otto Fire and Rescue. “It’s one of the leading causes of death in our profession. So for us here in rural N.C. where the departments are still volunteer we still do the same job without health benefits or compensation. So for us, we want to give our part in hopes that one day a cure can be found and it can take the pain, depression and heartache from our guys and their family.”

In 2010, the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) began a multi-year study of nearly 30,000  firefighters from the Chicago, Philadelphia, and San Francisco Fire Departments to better understand the potential link between  firefighting and cancer.  The study was a joint effort led by researchers at NIOSH in collaboration with researchers at the National Cancer Institute and the University of California at Davis Department of Public Health Sciences, and supported in part by the U.S Fire Administration.  The study was completed in late 2015.

According to the study, fire fighters had a great number of cancer diagnoses and cancer-related deaths that were digestive, oral, respiratory, and urinary cancers. There are also about twice as many fire fighters with malignant mesothelioma, a rare type of cancer caused by exposure to asbestos than the general public.

Firefighters like Bolick, and other emergency personnel in Macon County will be hosting a fire truck pull to raise money for this year’s Really for Life events.

The event will start at 11 a.m. in the Big Lots parking lot. About 12 teams have pre-registered for the event, with same day registration available on Saturday. The pull consists of six members whose task at hand will be to pull Franklin Fire Department’s ladder truck to the finish line. The fastest time wins. Registration for each team is $150, with a reduced cost for youth teams.

In addition to the pull, hamburgers and hotdogs will available for purchase, as well as a DJ and fire trucks and ambulances for kids to enjoy.