NORTH HAVEN — When Kristine Munck lost her cousin, a former North Haven firefighter, to skin cancer, she found a unique way to honor his memory.
Munck, a receptionist at Yale-New Haven Shoreline Medical Center, raised more than $1,000 to purchase on-scene decontamination wipes, which firefighters and first responders use to remove toxins and carcinogens from their skin.
Her cousin Josh Carney died in October 2017 from an aggressive skin cancer at age 41. Munck said doctors linked Carney’s illness to his nearly two-decade career as a firefighter, deeming it occupational cancer.
Carney, a 1995 graduate of North Haven High School, began his firefighting career volunteering at Northeast Company 4.
He served as an Air Force firefighter before settling in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina with his wife, Lillian, and daughter Shayla, 17.
He joined Midway Fire Rescue in Pawleys Island in 2000 and rose to the rank of battalion chief.
He was diagnosed with Stage 4 melanoma in June 2017 and died four months later.
Carney received his diagnosis a week before Munck’s wedding, which he still attended.
“He didn’t tell anybody, waited until after,” Munck said, “so the family got to be together.”
Munck donated a more than a years worth of Responder Wipes to the North Haven Fire Department on Wednesday with several members of Carney’s family and firefighters present.
Chief Paul Januszewski said the fire department will incorporate the donated wipes into its routine as soon as possible.
“Along with this donation comes a network of lessons learned, policies and best practices other departments are using,” he said.
When Responder Wipes learned of Munck’s donation, the company partnered with the Carney family to launch the Carney Strong Initiative.
Working through the non-profit Brothers Helping Brothers, the initiative will donate decontamination wipes to one volunteer or small municipal fire department each month through the end of the year. Solutions Safety Products and Services will participate by donating Citro Squeeze gear cleaner and SC-14 tool and equipment cleaner.
“Occupational cancer is a real thing for our firefighters,” Munck said, “and I want to keep them safe.”