He was a warrior on the fireground and in death
The Chelsea Fire Department, the Massachusetts Fire Academy and the fire service lost a Brother, Firefighter Peter Franz Kannler.
Pete was, what can be described in New England fire terms, a good jake, one of the highest compliments a firefighter can get. He was proud of his German heritage and also known for his many looks; he would grow his hair out or come in with a shave head or a Mohawk.
He started his career with the Westwood Fire Department (Westwood is a town southwest of Boston) in 2005, stayed for two years, then took a lateral transfer to Chelsea Fire in 2007. Chelsea, a small city next to Boston is a busy department and has a lot of fire duty (Chelsea is known best for the conflagration of 1973).
I had the pleasure of working with Peter Kannler and the Massachusetts Fire Academy. In a world where some instructors take the kinder, gentler approach, Pete was a balls to the wall, old fireman’s soul in young fireman’s body. As an instructor who had not problem telling the recruits the truth, if they sucked on an evolution he would not sugarcoat it. He would tell them they sucked, using the F-bomb if it was deemed appropriate. He would then tell them what they did wrong and how to improve their skills for the next evolution. If they did great he would give them kudos for a job well done. Career recruits or call/volunteer recruits, it did not matter. Peter taught in both programs and was tough on both. He was also known to give pet names to students, instructors and coworkers. Once you got a nickname it stuck, so you hoped you got a good one.
He was ‘old school tough as nails’. Someone who worked with him described him as being rough as 20 grit sandpaper, yet he also had a soft side, devoted to his wife and three daughters.
Pete had a fire related injury that was healing very slowly. He had a doctor’s appointment and mentioned it. They ran some tests and blood work and that is when it was discovered. He had injured his foot and ankle earlier and then in late July of 2015 he went to the doctor for a bloody stool. They think the ibuprofen for the foot injury caused the bleeding around the tissue wall where the tumor had already attached. By the it was already stage IV of esophageal cancer.
The doctors at the Dana Farber Cancer Center said they had no data or case studies for his type of cancer in someone this young. The doctors said that they’ve learned more from Pete than anyone else that has ever had this type of cancer. He was a warrior on the fireground and in death and he will continue to be a warrior. The data collected will be used to help others.
Rest easy Pete Kannler. You will be missed.
Photo courtesy of Lloyd Mitchell Photography