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Former Whitehorse firefighter claims city resonsible for ‘destroying’ his health

Former firefighter Gary Pettifor told Whitehorse city council Sept. 5 he was giving the city seven days to accept responsibility for chronic and debilitating health problems he says were caused by his tenure on the job, or he would go public with his accusations.

Pettifor claims he has documented "proof of wrongdoing" on the part of the city.

Coming before council as a delegate at the recent standing committee meeting, Pettifor said he had begun working as a volunteer firefighter in June 1976, and had been a full time firefighter with the city for 37 years. Chronic back pain due to injury which requires prescription medication, hearing loss, sleep apnea and symptoms of exposure to asbestos, including nodules in his lungs, are among the litany of health issues Pettifor said he has acquired over the course of his career.

Pettifor has also had an extremely aggressive form of prostate cancer, which resulted in the affected organ having to be surgically removed. He said that this "aggressive, rapidly growing version" affects two to three per cent of men who contract the disease, a disproportionate number of whom are firefighters.

At the beginning of the meeting, before Pettifor spoke, Mayor Dan Curtis made an announcement declaring September Prostate Cancer Awareness Month in the City of Whitehorse.

Pettifor said these claims have been verified as work-related by the WCB, although his claim regarding sleep apnea — which he said leaves him chronically exhausted — is still under review. The compensation from these claims is substantially less than than what he made working for the city, however, he said.

"The city has taken away my ability to make a living…. As a matter of fact they have taken away my ability to enjoy my life," he said. "I ask that the city accept responsibility for destroying my health and shortening my life."

Pettifor did not elaborate on how the city was responsible nor what documentation he had, but offered multiple times to meet with councillors to discuss the matter. When offered the option of asking him follow up questions, councillors had none.

Curtis said after the meeting that Pettifor's allegations are a human resources issue.

"It's definitely an administration issue when it comes to allegations of this kind. We've been advised not to comment on it," said Curtis.

Contact Lori Garrison at lori.garrison@yukon-news.com

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