One veteran fire fighter is raising awareness among his colleagues to wear protective gear long after they’ve extinguished flames.

Bill Duncan has spent 33 years fighting fires in Kitchener, Ontario. The 55-year-old planned to retire this year, but instead of celebrating his many years of fire service – he’s now battling brain cancer.

Members of the Ontario Professional Fire Fighters Association, say they are seeing more fire fighters nearing retirement getting sick and dying.

Duncan, a former president of the fire fighters union, is one of seven fire fighters who are currently battling cancer in Kitchener.

The reports that since 1988, 13 Kitchener fire fighters have died — all but three of them from occupational cancer.

Fire officials link the cancer illnesses to a 1987 blaze at the Horizontal Technologies blaze.

Duncan did not battle the HT blaze. Still, he wants to encourage fire fighters to wear their protective clothing at fire scenes long after flames are doused because of the tendency of toxic chemicals from buildings to linger.

Duncan has undergone surgery and chemotherapy. His tumor shrank, but it has returned.

Many Ontario fire fighters are pledging to make conditions safer for the current crop of fire fighters. Fire fighters have worked on new laws making it easier for firefighters to qualify for compensation for some occupational-related cancers and heart attacks.