The importance of the mental and physical health of firefighters and first responders is broadening after the Fort McMurray fire.
 
A year into a University of Alberta study to examine the effects of the wildfire had on first responders, the health of emergency personnel is being thrust to the forefront.
 
For firefighters, the toxic smoke they're exposed to can lead to dangerous and deadly cancers and health effects later in life.
 
Fire Chief Shawn McKerry is trying to change that.
 
He wants to introduce a program into the fire service in Fort Saskatchewan called The Fire Services Annual Occupational Medical Assessments.
 
"That involves a mental health assessment and a physical health assessment and it can throw up red flags or pre-emptive things so we can catch conditions or symptoms early on in the illness' infancy," he explained.
 
The hope is that by catching illnesses early, it will be easier to treat and cure while they're small, before they get big and difficult to treat.
 
"Currently, one of my counterparts in Parkland County is off work for a year because of a mid-point diagnosed cancer," explained McKerry. "It's a big loss for Parkland County, if this was caught earlier it may have been a bit quicker, maybe, maybe not but hopefully we can catch things quicker so we can make things go smoother and faster."
 
The program is included in his budget requests with a price tag of $55,000.
 
Annual medical assessments are standard practice in Edmonton, Strathcona County, St Albert, Spruce Grove and Stony Plain.

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