Firefighter paramedic with 21-year career dies after battle with occupational cancer

Local News

DENVER (KDVR) — South Metro Fire Rescue announced that Anthony Palato, a firefighter paramedic, passed away Wednesday after a battle with occupational cancer.

SMFR said Palato was diagnosed with an occupational cancerous tumor in 2017. Palato went into remission a few years ago until the cancer tragically returned.

FOX31 reporter Evan Kruegel spoke with Palato in 2019, while highlighting a growing number of Colorado firefighters battling work-related cancer. At the time, Palato was in remission, and spoke about a newfound perspective on life.

“I live for today now,” he said. “I used to be a worrier, and worried about the next minute, the next day, next week, next year, but not anymore. This really put a lot of perspective in my life.”

Palato also spoke about how proud he was of the department’s progress on cancer prevention. Firefighters now carry two sets of gear, and are required to change into a new set while the dirty set is decontaminated following a fire.

“These guys that are coming up, these men and women that are coming up through the ranks, they’re just going to live with it, and know that this is the positive changes towards cancer,” said Palato. 

Assistant Chief Jon Adams says Palato’s positive attitude will always be remembered within the department, as well as his courage. 

“He treated every patient with the utmost respect and over 21 years,” says Adams. “I can only imagine how many lives he changed.”

Palato began his career with Sheridan Fire Department and later joined the Cunningham Fire Protection District in 2000. In 2018 Cunningham unified with South Metro Fire Rescue where he worked until he medically retired on March 1, 2021, according to SMFR.

“As a paramedic for 21 years, there is no doubt that Tony touched many lives and will be remembered as a kind, caring and compassionate person with a true servant’s heart, he will be greatly missed,” shared SMFR.

SMFR said flags will be flown at half-staff at all SMFR facilities and badges worn by SMFR personnel will be shrouded until further notice.

“Tony was surrounded with a strong support network including his wife, their two daughters and his second family of firefighters,” shared SMFR.

Details of Palato’s memorial service will be announced by SMFR.

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