MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — A St. Paul firefighter’s death of cancer last year is considered by the state to have been in the line of duty.

After 14 months of deliberation, Commissioner John Harrington of the Minnesota Department of Public safety found that Cpt. Michael Paidar’s death on Aug. 26, 2020, was in the line of duty. Paidar, 53, of Maple Grove, died of an aggressive form of leukemia, and authorities decided it was linked to his years of service as a career firefighter and EMT.

“Having been in law enforcement for nearly 40 years, I understand the dangers facing public safety officers each day,” Harrington wrote in an Oct. 27 letter to Paidar’s wife. “And it appears your husband’s case, the danger was not solely an immediate one. As such, I believe his death falls within the intended definition of ‘killed in the line of duty’ recognized by this state and will be certified as such.”

The union IAFF Local 21 called the decision historic, noting that it is the first time someone in the Minnesota fire service was awarded the Public Safety Officer Death Benefit after dying of cancer in the line of duty. The union said that if fought alongside Paidar’s family for the benefit to be awarded.

In the letter to Paidar’s wife, Harrington explained his reasoning for his decision and apologized for the time it took for him to reach it. The commissioner noted that Paidar was involved in 1,600 fire runs and 4,800 EMT runs. over his 15-year career in public service. While Paidar was healthy for most of that time, he died just six months after the cancer diagnosis.

Medical studies, Harrington noted, link a firefighter’s number of “fire hours” to leukemia mortality. He added that studies show the risk of dying of leukemia peaks earlier in a firefighter’s career if they are susceptible to the disease. Harrington included a statement from Paidar’s doctor, which said that, given Paidar’s age and overall excellent health, is “more likely than not that occupational exposure led to his development of leukemia.”

Paidar worked for the St. Paul Fire Department and the Maple Grove Fire Department. He left behind a wife and two children. His funeral service was held at Harriet Island Park in St. Paul.