MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — The death of a firefighter in St. Paul last year from cancer is considered a task by the state.
After 14 months of deliberation, Minnesota Department of Public Safety Commissioner John Harrington found that Cpt. The death of Michael Paidar on August 26, 2020 was in line with justice. Paidar, 53, of Maple Grove, died of an aggressive form of leukemia, and authorities determined it was related to his years of service as a professional firefighter and EMT.
“I have been in the police force for nearly 40 years and I understand the dangers that public security officers face every day,” Harrington wrote in an Oct. 27 letter to Paidar’s wife. “And it seems that in your husband’s case, the danger wasn’t just acute. As such, I believe his death falls within the intended definition of ‘killed in the line of duty’ that is recognized by this state and will be certified as such.”
The union IAFF Local 21 called the decision historic, noting that it marks the first time anyone from the Minnesota Fire Department has been awarded the Public Safety Officer Death Benefit after dying of cancer on the job. The union said that if they fought with Paidar’s family to get the benefit.
In the letter to Paidar’s wife, Harrington explained his reasoning for his decision and apologized for the time it took him to reach it. The commissioner noted that Paidar was involved in 1,600 firewalks and 4,800 EMT runs. over his 15-year career in public service. Although Paidar was healthy for most of that time, he died just six months after being diagnosed with cancer.
Medical studies, Harrington noted, link a firefighter’s “burning hours” to leukemia deaths. He added that studies show the risk of dying from leukemia spikes earlier in a firefighter’s career if they are predisposed to the disease. Harrington added a statement from Paidar’s doctor who said that given Paidar’s age and overall excellent health, “it is more likely than not that occupational exposure led to his developing leukemia.”
Paidar worked for the St. Paul Fire Department and the Maple Grove Fire Department. He left behind a wife and two children. His funeral service was held at Harriet Island Park in St. Paul.