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Gone but not forgotten: Langford firefighter honoured 1 year after death

Lance Caven died from cancer linked to chemicals found in firefighting gear

Lance Caven, a fallen hero loved by his community of firefighters, was remembered on March 19, the first anniversary of his death.

Caven died after a battle with cancer that was likely caused by the chemicals found in gear meant to protect firefighters, said Langford Fire Chief Chris Aubrey.

“It’s already a hard enough job, but to put on gear that’s supposed to protect you — that’s potentially killing you — makes it worse.”

Firefighting gear was found to contain Per and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances (PFAS) chemicals, which have been linked to cancer, according to research cited by the International Association of Firefighters.

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Aubrey said the cancer-causing properties in equipment that protect firefighters can be found in everyday cookware, such as nonstick frying pans.

“The same chemicals are in Teflon, waterproofing, and non-stick stuff. There’s stuff in bedding, clothing, shoes, and many household products.”

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Aubrey and Caven had been in the same department for a few years but became friends when they started working as fire inspectors.

Despite Caven’s tragic death, the jovial, kind-hearted man is fondly remembered for his good humour, Aubrey said.

Caven’s passion was his job. He always tried to understand the mysterious causes of fires, leading to discoveries that often educated Langford Fire Rescue.

“He would always say, ‘Safety never takes a holiday’ — he tried to trademark that one,” said Aubrey.

One of Caven’s discoveries was a cardboard box with a burn mark. The homeowners didn’t know what caused the burn as it was sitting on a countertop, and nothing else around it had burn marks, said Audbery.

“He figured out that they had a concave mirror and the sun was coming in. It burned a hole through the box.”

Tianna Dupuis, Langford Fire Rescue FireSmart coordinator, remembered Caven for his infectious laugh and fun-loving nature. She recalled a time he rode around the fire hall, shooting water guns at people to relieve tension and have fun.

“He just rolled by with this little tricycle and laughed when he got us with the water.”

In the same period that Caven died, Aubrey had gone to the funerals of four of his friends from the fire service.

“I said to our guys the other day, ‘As you’ve been doing this job long enough, you will go to funerals for firefighters. And it’s going to be somebody you know and love.’”

Aubrey said Caven loved being on camera and was nicknamed ‘The PowerPoint’ because he learned early how to engage with the camera and the media.

“There are so many pictures of him pointing at fires.”

Caven was with Langford Fire Rescue for 30 years, and his career grew as the city blossomed. He went from dealing with rural fires to dealing with fires in high-rise buildings.

“The city went from being a largely rural community to a fully functioning city.”

Caven helped train hundreds of firefighters during his time at Langford. When Aubrey was promoted to fire chief, he asked Caven to ensure he would still make the department fun.

“He helped their firefighting career, and I like to think how he helped them as people, not just with firefighting.”

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About the Author: Thomas Eley

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