PHOENIX (3TV/CBS 5) -- Phoenix firefighters are mourning after one of their own lost a battle with cancer, which he contracted as a direct result of his job.
Rick Telles died Thursday while surrounded by his loved ones, according to the United Phoenix Firefighters.
"That's the hardest thing to process in all of this is that Rick Tellas was probably one of the strongest guys i know. not just physically strong, which he was. he was a mountain of a man, but I mean just his integrity, his inner strength, his will he was a rock of a human being and to have someone like that taken from you just doesn't even seem fathomable to us," said PJ Dean with the United Phoenix Firefighters Association.
Telles was joined the Phoenix Fire Department in 2006, and worked at station 5.
The 45-year-old father of five was diagnosed with throat cancer a little over a year ago.
Telles’ passing is being considered a line-of-duty death because the cancer he contracted was a result of exposure to toxins while on the job.
“If you think about how things are constructed these days with synthetic materials, there's less wood there's less cotton fibers, natural materials, all of that stuff burns in a very toxic fashion and we absorb it though our skin our hair we breathe it in,” said Dean.
United Phoenix Firefighters Association represents firefighters in Phoenix, Peoria, Glendale, Surprise, and Chandler. It says its last four deaths have all been cancer related.
"We're really trying to wrap out heads around this new epidemic we face as firefighters and doing the est we can to try and avoid it but at this point it's winning," said Dean.
The Phoenix Fire Department released the following statement about Telles’ death:
“The Phoenix Fire Department mourns the passing of Firefighter Rick Telles. Firefighter Telles’ commitment to excellence in all aspects of his profession made him an asset to the department and held him in the highest regard by his peers. Our profession is diminished in his absence.”
“We have lost a great firefighter and friend but are blessed by his memory which will live on each day his brothers and sisters answer the call just as passionately as he did,” said the United Phoenix Firefighters via their Facebook page. "Rest in eternal peace Brother Ricky"