Small Colorado town dedicates firetruck to young firefighter battling cancer

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HYGIENE, Colo. (KDVR) — Just outside of Longmont sits the unincorporated town of Hygiene — a small, rural community with a proud fire department. 

While the coverage area for the Hygiene Fire Department is just 55 square miles, it boasts a strong volunteer workforce with roughly 60 people.

“Hygiene is a great area for people to come and gain some experience,” says Assistant Chief Russ Benzel. 

In December 2018, a then 27-year-old named William Easland joined the force, looking to fulfill his dream of becoming a firefighter. 

Benzel would find out a year later that Easland had been fighting cancer for a number of years.

“It was his dream,” says Benzel. “He had talked to me and said that the cancer that he had previously recovered from was back.”

Benzel says Easland continued pushing through the fire academy, becoming an honorary graduate in 2019. 

Cancer once again reared its ugly head; treatments against the rare Fibromellar Hepatocellular proved unsuccessful. 

In the fall of 2020, Easland was placed into hospice care.

Around that same time, the department received a brand-new fire engine, and came up with an idea: while firetrucks are often dedicated to heroes no longer with us, why not dedicate it to Will, while he was still around?

“When people see that, they can ask us, ‘Why are you honoring this Will Easland?'” says Benzel. “And we can tell them the story about Will, and the impact he had on us and the department.”

Friday afternoon, firetrucks from multiple agencies paraded by Easland’s Longmont home. 

At the front of the pack, Hygiene’s new engine, bearing “In Honor of William Easland” on the back and sides.

“It’s emotional, it means a lot,” said Easland. “What an honor it really is to have my name on the truck.”

Easland’s wife Noelle says it’s the latest gesture of overwhelming support their family has received from the fire department. 

“I don’t think once I’ve ever shoveled the snow in front of my own house, because before I can even get outside, one of those guys or girls is doing it for me,” she says. “We’re pretty blessed to have such a wonderful community.”

Will’s father Mark broke down in tears when the truck pulled up. 

“This shouldn’t happen to any parent, you know,” he says. “Of course his mom and I would exchange places with him, of course, but we can’t. That’s part of the mystery of life, things happen to people for a reason.”

His family says they look forward to visiting Hygiene’s annual pancake breakfast every year, and seeing Easland’s name proudly displayed.

“It’s a wonderful thing,” said his father. “It’s a wonderful thing.”

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