Samuel Eaton isn’t afraid of many things.
A battalion chief for the Palm Beach County Fire Rescue, the 52-year-old has made a career of charging into burning buildings and coming out in one piece.
But thinking toward his upcoming birthday, he’ll tell you he’s deeply concerned. Eaton lost one of his best friends, a retired fire captain in the department, last year at 53. After two decades on the force, it wasn’t a house fire or a collapsed lung that eventually killed Butch Smith. It was cancer, an invisible killer that stalks victims for years before revealing itself, often contracted by firefighters through microscopic carcinogens that latch onto fire gear or their skin.