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Porter dentist offers free oral cancer screenings for firefighters

As a thank you to local first responders, Porter Family Dentistry is offering free oral cancer screenings to firefighters in Montgomery County for the next several weeks.

The screenings will be held on Fridays when the office is usually closed so that firefighters don’t have to wait.

In 2016, the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health published a multi-year study of cancer rates in firefighters, and the findings showed that firefighters had a higher number of cancer diagnoses and cancer-related deaths than the general U.S. population. Among the cancers found in the sample of nearly 30,000 firefighters, those most often found were digestive, oral, respiratory, and urinary cancers.

In recent months, firefighters across the country have been traveling to areas, like California, that their help is needed. Dr. Mustafa Yamani of Porter Family Dentistry went to school in California and has fond memories of the nature and beauty of the state.

“It’s such a beautiful place, it’s really sad reading all of the stuff in the news that’s going on there,” Yamani said. “From all around the country they (the firefighters) come together and they provide this service. It’s just amazing what they’re doing and I really appreciate that. I just want to do something for them.”


The generous act of the firefighters inspired him to give back, and since oral cancer screenings are a service his office already offers he decided to give them to firefighters for free.

While this is the first year that the dental office has offered free screenings, Yamani and his wife Sabrina, who is the office manager, plan on making it an annual thing. The trials of 2020 also helped them decide to give back.

“Things seem to be going from bad to worse, to even worse, and it just doesn’t seem to be stopping for our first responders,” Sabrina said. “They’re just being hit with things one after the other.”

Sabrina started by reaching out to fire departments in the east past of Montgomery County to let them know about the opportunity and the response was immediate and positive. Already, the dental office has screenings set up with local firefighters.

Because firefighters are at a higher risk of developing cancer, many departments take an aggressive approach to screenings and check-ups. Early detection is vital. Such is the approach of the East Montgomery County Fire Department where firefighters undergo a National Fire Protection Agency physicals annually.

“It’s huge to us,” Eran Denzler, captain and PIO with the department, said of being able to get the oral screenings for free. “It’s a great show of appreciation for what we do and the risks that we take. Every day we go and put our lives on the line for the community, and for them to give back and worry about our safety is something we’re not used to but it’s much appreciated.”

The department averages around one to two structure fires a week,

COVID-19 restrictions may have played a role in San Francisco firefighter’s death

SAN FRANCISCO, CA - OCT. 7: Family and friends of deceased SF firefighter and paramedic Jason Cortez head to SFFD vehicles for a procession to Medical Examiner's office from SF General Hospital in San Francisco, Calif., on Wednesday, October 7, 2020. Cortez died Wednesday morning during a training exercise. (Scott Strazzante/The San Francisco Chronicle via Getty Images)
Family and friends of deceased firefighter and paramedic Jason Cortez prepare for a procession from San Francisco General Hospital. (Scott Strazzante / San Francisco Chronicle)

The San Francisco Fire Department has revealed the circumstances leading to the death of a firefighter during a training exercise last week, noting that restrictions implemented to stem the spread of the coronavirus might have played a role.

Jason Cortez, 42, was knocked off a third-floor fire escape Wednesday by an inadvertent water blast, the report said. He was alone on the fire escape of a training facility at 19th and Folsom streets when he opened the gate of a hose adapter that did not have a hose lined attached, and the stream of water struck him in the chest and pushed him backward.

Although accidental in nature, Cortez’s death could be linked to COVID-19 restrictions, according to the report. His engine company, Station No. 3, was conducting a solo training exercise that typically requires multiple firefighters from two stations.

“Because of COVID 19 concerns, multi-company drills are suspended,” the report said. Engine 3 “was forced to conduct a pump operation drill alone. … Each [firefighter] was required to carry out tasks individually which are normally done as part of a team.”

San Francisco Fire Department firefighter paramedic Jason Cortez.
San Francisco Fire Department firefighter paramedic Jason Cortez. (San Francisco Fire Department )

The San Francisco Fire Department was one of the first in the nation to implement aggressive COVID-19 guidelines in accordance with recommendations from doctors, hazardous-industry specialists and epidemiologists, according to spokesman Lt. Jonathan Baxter. The social distancing measures are meant to ensure the safety of fire crews and the communities they serve.

“We don’t want to cross-pollinate those crews unless we absolutely have to,” Baxter said. “Cross-pollination does occur during actual emergencies, but those are uncontrolled. When we have controlled sessions, such as a training session, we try to limit the exposure as much as possible.”

Baxter said it was likely that those guidelines would be reevaluated in light of Cortez’s death, but he said training and community safety must remain top priorities.

“We can’t put training on hold during COVID-19 because emergencies aren’t going to go on hold,” he said. “We have to be prepared, especially when we have so many new and young firefighters that need to be trained and tested on skill sets. … But one fatality, one injury, is one too many.”

Cortez was a father of two and the son of a retired San Francisco firefighter. He was treated for critical injuries at the scene and transported to San Francisco General Hospital shortly after 10 a.m. Wednesday. He died from his injuries less than an hour later.

Station No. 3, in the Tenderloin neighborhood, is regularly ranked one of the busiest in the country, often with up to 40 calls during a 24-hour shift.

“If you looked at Jason at 3 in the afternoon or 3 in the morning, he had a positive attitude, smile on his face, excellent customer service,” Baxter said.