ALBEMARLE COUNTY, Va. (CBS19 NEWS) -- “Firefighters have a nine percent greater chance of getting cancer than the general public, but we have a 14 percent chance of dying from it than the general public,” said Joe Schumacher, the COO of the Firefighter Cancer Support Network. 

The Fire Fighter Cancer Support Network was created to help bring down that statistic and educate firefighters on protecting themselves.

Schumacher is a three-time cancer survivor who was a firefighter for 30 years.

He helps educate firefighters who have been diagnosed with cancer by supplying them with a toolbox of resources they and their families can use during that difficult time, including a 230-page manual that covers many of the questions they may have.

Another one of the network's programs is badge-to-badge support, which pairs two officers together that have and have survived the same type of cancer.

“So they can ask them questions, and sometimes, you know they give them brutally honest answers about what they can expect, what recovery will be like, what some of the side effects of chemotherapy and radiation are, and how you deal with them,” added Schumacher. 

January, which is dedicated as Firefighter Cancer Awareness Month, has themes and resources available throughout the month. 

The aim to is supply firefighters with the knowledge and resources to understand how they are exposed to carcinogens, what happens when they are exposed, how to prevent exposures, make culture changes in their department and assist those who are diagnosed with cancer.

The Albemarle County Department of Fire Rescue says that because of this program, its officers have utilized the education they were taught and have done their best to protect themselves from being exposed.

“One of the most important things we do is we offer an annual screening through our annual physical process to provide very early detection of any cancers someone may have,” said Meade Whitaker, ACFR Battalion Chief. 

This education and resource program is here to make a difference in a dangerous field, and gives 

“We’ll never eliminate cancer in the fire service, and that’s simply because of what we’re exposed to,” said Schumacher.

But the Firefighter Cancer Support Network is doing its part to educate all firefighters on how to protect themselves on and off duty. For more information on the nonprofit, click here