RIPON — A fire engine manned by a crew of cancer surviving firefighters is sweeping across the U.S. with their message of awareness and early diagnosis targeted at other fire service personnel. Fire Chief Dennis Bitters is hosting that crew Friday morning at 9 a.m. in front of Station One.
Chief Bitters – a member of the “Code 3 for a Cure” board of directors – presented the Southern California-based fire fighters with a memorial fire bell when they kicked off this year’s cross country mission in Los Angeles.
Bitters has sent an open invitation to the other fire departments in both San Joaquin and Stanislaus counties to attend the event. It is the only stop for the “Code 3 for a Cure” effort in the two counties. Motorists witnessing the crew driving on the roadways have been seen saluting them with three fingers held high.
Ripon Police Sergeant Steve Merchant confirmed that several members of his department are also planning to be on hand Friday morning to applaud the campaign of the fire crew. Chief Dave Bricker of the Manteca Police Department said his department will also be represented.
Manteca Fire Chief Kirk Waters said at least six of his off-duty firefighters will be represented to show their support for the cancer foundation designed to make fire personnel aware of the threat.
San Joaquin County Supervisor Ken Vogel will be on hand to present a proclamation to Lorenzo Abundiz, founder of the foundation and its crew in their life-saving awareness campaign. The engine is expected to arrive in Ripon Thursday night and the crew will be staying with Abundiz’ son Jeremy – a firefighter for the Ripon department.
Abundiz is a three-time cancer survivor of sarcoma, as well as bladder and prostate cancers.
“As we move now past the halfway mark of the 2009 mission across America and Canada,” Abundiz said, “I would like to thank all the fire departments in the U.S. and Canada who have opened their doors to hosting us. We have fond memories and we have joined forces with them to make an impact on the war against cancer,” he added.
“We have all shared our own personal cancer experiences and have made a tremendous impact on firefighters and the general public regarding the need for early cancer screening,” he said.
The fire crew is just now completing visits in the state of Washington in the cities of Yakima, Spokane and Bellingham. They are going to again head down Highway 99 after Thursday morning’s celebration with the next stop Fresno and then on to Los Angeles. It was in L.A. where they got their sendoff in mid-September at the Griffith Observatory.
Celebrities supporting the movement include William Shatner, Anthony Robbins, Richard Thomas and Celine Dion. Their website is at www.code3foracure.org.