Tempe firefighter dies after battle with colorectal cancer

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The Tempe Fire Medical Rescue Department is mourning the loss of Firefighter Tommy Arriaga, 36, who died Friday morning following his battle with colorectal cancer.

Mr. Arriaga’s death represents Tempe Fire Medical Rescue’s second line-of-duty death and full honors will be extended throughout his service.

“Tommy effortlessly demonstrated passion, humility and perseverance throughout his life and career with the Tempe Fire Medical Rescue Department,” Fire Chief Greg Ruiz stated in a release. “He exuded the true meaning of courage in the face of adversity and through every obstacle life threw his way. He inspired all those around him with his positive attitude and will continue to do so after his passing. Tommy will be deeply missed by all who served with and around him.”

Mr. Arriaga is survived by his wife Monica and his two daughters Miranda, 7, and Madalynn, 3.

He began his career with the department in 2014, and he quickly demonstrated his commitment to providing the highest level of service to the residents of Tempe and surrounding cities, according to a release.

In 2016, Mr. Arriaga became a member of the Hazardous Materials Response Team, where he served until early 2019 when he was diagnosed with cancer. His cancer has been determined to be related to his work, according to the release.

Mr. Arriaga was honored as the Tempe South Rotary Club Outstanding Firefighter/Employee of the Year award on Feb. 28 for his dedication to improving the fire service, even while battling cancer.

Details for his service will be announced in the coming days.

Tempe Fire Medical Rescue’s first line of duty death was in 1980, with the passing of Firefighter Ed Gaicki during a fire at a Tempe business.

Anyone who wants to send letters to Mr. Arriaga's family or the department can do so at the agency's administration office at 1400 E. Apache Blvd., Tempe.

Regular screening, beginning at 50, is key to preventing colorectal cancer, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. If you’re 50 to 75, get screened for colorectal cancer regularly. If you’re younger than 50 and think you may be at high risk of getting colorectal cancer, or if you’re older than 75, ask your doctor if you should be screened.

According to the CDC, colorectal cancer is the second leading cause of cancer deaths in the United States among cancers that affect both men and women. Every year, about 140,000 people in the nation get colorectal cancer, and more than 50,000 people die of it.

March is Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month.

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