San Jose's Busiest Fire Station Has No Waiting List

One of San Jose's busiest fire stations should have a waiting list.

But, that's not the case. In fact, many firefighters have refused to accept assignments there.

That's because it's been dubbed 'the cancer station.'

At least 16 firefighters who have worked at the fire house have  been diagnosed with cancer, according to  NBC Bay Area investigative reporters.

Despite the diagnosis of many firefighters assigned to Station 5, there has not been a formal investigation -- until now, the news team reported.

"Now, the leader of the department has pledged to examine the fire station’s infamous reputation..." reporters noted.

Retired San Jose Capt. Rick Wardell told the writer: “It is kind of almost a sick joke that when you work at station five, you can’t wait to get out and work at some other station.”

In March, he was diagnosed with gallbladder cancer. He had spent six of his 30 years with the department at 'the cancer station.'

“My life is changed,” Wardell said. “It will never be the same.”

Wardell’s colleague, Mike Cunningham, a 30-year-veteran of the force, worked at station five for two years. He also has cancer—a bone marrow cancer called multiple myeloma. He was diagnosed in 2010.

“There is no cure for my cancer,” Cunningham said.

As part of the six-month probe, the reporters noted that epidemiologists and other health experts say that it is nearly impossible to prove a link between working in a specific firehouse, and a cancer diagnosis. They also point out that cancer clusters are rare.

“Scientifically looking at it from a technical point of view, would you say, ‘I developed cancer as a consequence of being at this fire station?’ Probably not,” said Dr. Mike Wilson, director of the Labor Occupational Health Program at UC Berkeley. “Could you say that there were exposures at this fire station that may have contributed to the development of cancer? That is plausible.”

The station sits in a highly industrial part of the city, and for years firefighters have sent memos and raised concerns about problems with air quality, firefighters told reporters.

Due to its location, Station 5 firefighters also respond to more high-risk chemical fires.