Tempe launches cancer-screening program after death of firefighter


From left: Tempe Fire Station 2 firefighters Jason Dean and Tommy Arriaga, Deputy Chief Kyle Carman and Captain Drew Ashcraft. Tempe has begun a cancer-screening program for firefighters in the wake of the passing of Arriaga.

A new cancer-screening program for firefighters, Tempe grows, food-bank volunteers needed and a change in bridge-work schedule on Interstate 10: It’s all right here in this installment of Tempe News Briefs!

Every day, firefighters put their lives on the line to protect the communities they serve. They are continuously exposed to various toxins and carcinogens and, as a result of this exposure, firefighters have significantly increased cancer incidence and mortality rates. Cancer has become an epidemic in the fire service.

To help protect the 169 members of Tempe Fire Medical Rescue, Tempe has launched a cancer-screening program. The program aims to catch cancer in its infancy, when survivability is increased, cost is decreased and potential detriment is mitigated much sooner. It is a way for the city to be proactive and ensures that those taking care of the community are healthy.

All firefighters will receive an initial cancer screening, a dermatological screening and a full-body exam. Additional screenings, such as a QT ultrasound, low-dose lung CT and whole-body MRI, are available based on the age of the firefighter.

To make this program possible, Tempe Fire Medical Rescue sought a grant to cover initial cancer screenings. Due to the recent cancer diagnoses of a few members and the passing of firefighter Tommy Arriaga, it was of extreme importance to be proactive.

“The carcinogenic hazards due to firefighting do not discriminate and must be taken seriously,” said Tempe Deputy Fire Chief Kyle Carman. “Tommy’s passing and hard-fought battle with colorectal cancer serves as a reminder of the hazards associated with firefighting.

“We need to ensure Tommy’s passing was not in vain. Tommy was a young and healthy firefighter, so his diagnosis was shocking. The carcinogenic hazards due to firefighting do not discriminate and must be taken seriously.”

Tempe Fire Medical Rescue was awarded a $338,272 FEMA grant, which has been combined with the city funding of $33,827. The program recently received City Council approval and the grant must be used by this July 6. The cancer-screening program was created by Dr. Vershalee Shukla of the Vincere Cancer Center.

Tempe Fire Medical Rescue hopes that cancer screening will become the norm, similar to firefighter annual physicals.

In addition to cancer screening, firefighters can protect themselves in other ways, such as washing turnouts, post-fire decontamination, wearing a self-contained breathing apparatus, showering within an hour of a fire and limiting exposure to diesel exhaust. All of these prevention methods are part of a large cultural change that must take place within fire departments across the country.

As fallen firefighter Arriaga once said, “It’s cool to be clean.”

“Enjoy the job, because it can be there one day and gone the next,” said Arriaga, who lost his battle to an occupational cancer in March 2020 at age 36.

Tempe expands boundaries for first time since 2006

Tempe expanded its boundaries for the first time since 2006 in annexing in a portion of the north Tempe county island.

The city added more than 17 acres located in an area south of East Curry Road, west of North Miller Road and north of East Gilbert Drive.

The annexation will allow Tempe to make road and infrastructure improvements.

A new residential development, Banyan North Tempe, also is planned. Banyan North Tempe is a phased mixed-use development featuring approximately 650 residential units and retail opportunities. The project is designed by local architect Todd & Associates. The development partner is Milhaus.

The county island property being annexed is known for substantial graffiti, litter and weeds. Some of the buildings are dilapidated. There are problems with flooding on some of the streets. By annexing the area, Tempe can begin to correct these issues.

“Residents in north Tempe have been wanting to see improvements to the county island adjacent to them for a long time,” said Councilmember Jennifer Adams. “By annexing this land, we can begin that work.

“We are turning an eyesore into a highly desirable area. This property is just north of Tempe Town Lake and downtown Tempe, and just south of ASU SkySong. It is a great location.”

More information: tempe.gov/EconomicDevelopment.

United Food Bank seeks volunteers for food distribution

–United Food Bank

Anyone interested in becoming a volunteer at United Food Bank, 358 E. Javelina Ave. in Mesa, or partner agency may now sign up at www.unitedfoodbank.org.

Volunteers are essential workers to United when it comes to distributing food to people in need. The organization’s Volunteer Center relies on nearly 200 people each week to staff two-hour volunteer shifts to sort food donations and pack emergency food bags.

In addition, 50 volunteers are needed each week to cover 4-hour shifts at weekly food distributions.

Workplace groups, traditionally a great source of volunteers for United, have not returned to volunteering since the COVID-19 pandemic began, leading to an ongoing challenge in filling volunteer spots.

United Food Bank has provided hunger relief to people in the East Valley and eastern Arizona since 1983. As a Feeding America member food bank, it collects, acquires, stores and distributes food to more than 220 partner agencies and programs, serving more than 345,000 households annually in five counties. In 2020, due to COVID-19, United Food Bank distributed more than 27 million pounds of food, providing 22.5 million meals, a 20 percent increase over our distribution in 2019.

Eastbound I-10 restrictions at Gila River Bridge rescheduled to nights only


Eastbound Interstate 10 restrictions planned for March 1-5 south of Chandler have been rescheduled to nights during the coming weeks, according to Arizona Department of Transportation. Barrier-wall repairs are being done at the bridge, southeast of Riggs Road.

Instead of the maintenance work taking place during the day as scheduled initially, ADOT will do the repairs during overnight hours to limit impact on I-10 travel between Phoenix and Tucson on the busy freeway.

Eastbound I-10 will be narrowed to one lane at the Gila River Bridge.

Real-time highway conditions are available on ADOT’s Arizona Traveler Information site at az511.gov, by calling 511 and through ADOT’s Twitter feed, @ArizonaDOT. 

Arizonans may now renew driver licenses online

Renewing a standard Arizona driver license and a commercial driver license now may be completed with a few clicks on a website.

As Gov. Doug Ducey’s Executive Order on deferring standard driver license expiration dates ended on Feb. 28, Arizona Department of Transportation Motor Vehicle Division is giving many Arizonans the ability to renew their licenses online. Previously, renewals could be processed only during an office visit.

“Most Arizonans with a standard driver license must renew their license when they turn 65 years of age and every five years thereafter,” ADOT Director John Halikowski said. “During the pandemic, ADOT wants to continue Gov. Ducey’s efforts to help protect our most vulnerable and we’re pleased to be able to offer a contactless renewal option so people can continue making healthy choices.”

An in-office visit is required to renew a standard Arizona driver license if an individual’s photo of record was taken more than 12 years prior to renewal. Most Arizonans may renew their license without visiting an MVD office. Driver license-holders can log in to their account at AZMVDNow.gov to see their eligibility for online renewal.

To renew a CDL online at AZMVDNow.gov. An individual’s address must remain the same, a valid primary document is on file with MVD and their current credential must be in good standing. CDL holders with a hazmat endorsement may not renew their license online.

This streamlined renewal was made possible, in large part, when MVD implemented a state-of-the-art computer operating system last spring.

Go to AZMVDNow.gov and sign-in to your account. If you need to activate your account – everyone with an Arizona driver license has an account – follow these steps:

  • After logging in, select “Renew Now” in the “My Credential” section and follow the instructions.
  • Allow about 15 days for processing and mail delivery of your new driver license.



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