MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Hundreds gathered on the south side of the Minnesota State Capitol grounds in St. Paul Sunday to honor fallen firefighters that died in the line of duty.

Every year since 2011, people meet at the Capitol on the last Sunday of September for a solemn ceremony to remember Minnesota firefighters.

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Four more names were etched to the memorial Sunday:

• Captain Michael Paider (St. Paul): Died Aug. 26, 2020
• Chief Daryl “Taddy” Drusch (Howard Lake): Jan. 13, 2020
• Charles Brynteson (Minneapolis): April 22, 2018
• John Haycraft (Lewisville): March 15 1968

Michael Paider is survived by his wife, son and his daughter Meghan.

“He was the coolest person that I’ve ever met and I strive to be like him,” Meghan said. “Just very caring, optimistic and outgoing, and always wanting to be there for other people.”

Paider lost a battle to leukemia in August 2020. He’s the first firefighter the Minnesota Fire Service Foundation has ever honored that died of cancer as a result of being on the job.

(credit: CBS)

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Charles Brynteson — a Minneapolis firefighter, captain and assistant chief — lost his life to pancreatic cancer.

“Cancer is one of the biggest causes of death in fire service, and it’s because of all the carcinogens that are in the flammable items in our home,” said Jay Wood, president of Minnesota Fire Service Foundation.

Wood said there’s been a push in the state to be proactive with dealing with cancer and creating awareness.

“Years ago it use to be a badge of honor to have the filthiest gear, burnt up helmet. Now it’s a badge of honor to have the cleanest gear, to remove those carcinogens that we got on us when we’re at a fire,” Wood said.

As the community honors those who protect, it’s evident the legacy left behind is still present.

“Just knowing if I can keep living each day to the best I can, it’ll help to have his light shine through me,” Meghan said.

Since 1881, 236 Minnesota firefighters have died in the line of duty.

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The Minnesota Fire Service Foundation is a nonprofit that raises money to help families of firefighters who died in the line of duty. Click here to donate.

Pafoua Yang