'A good man': Wayne Township firefighter dies of cancer in line of duty death

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Richard Christopher “Hank” Potter
Richard Christopher “Hank” Potter

A longtime Wayne Township firefighter, who died in the line of duty from cancer last week, was dedicated to fire service, served in the military, and had three sons.

Richard “Hank” Potter, 52, was an engineer with the Wayne Township Fire Department since 1999. He died May 10 and will receive full department honors, according to the fire department.

"Hank was a good man,” said Captain Todd Taylor, who has worked at the fire department since 1982. “He prided himself on being a very competent, very aggressive engineer and firefighter. He was truly a person who loved his job and dedicated himself to the fire department."

Researchers from the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health found in 2015 that firefighters have a 9% increase in cancer diagnoses and a 14% increase in cancer-related deaths when compared to U.S. population rates.

“Every working fire we respond to is loaded with carcinogenic byproducts of combustion, so over time, all firefighter's exposure risk increases,” said Captain Eric Banister of the Wayne Township Fire Department via email.

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Potter had three sons and was married to his wife Gwyn Potter for 29 years. He retired as a staff sergeant after 25 years with the Indiana National Guard, which included a combat tour in Afghanistan.

His military awards included the Army Commendation Medal and Joint Meritorious Unit Award, Army Achievement Medal, National Defense Service Medal, Afghanistan Campaign Medal and the NATO Medal.

Prior to being appointed a career engineer, Potter was a volunteer firefighter with the fire department starting in 1987. He was awarded the Medal of Bravery, the medal of Merit, the Community Service Award and seven unit commendations during his time with the fire department.

As an engineer, one of Potter’s responsibilities was driving the department trucks.

“You have to know the area and Hank made it a point to really know and explore the area,” Taylor said. “He knew all the streets, all the cross streets, all the alleys. Being a ladder engineer he had to know exactly where to put the apparatus. Hank was one of the best at doing that.”

Contact Jake Allen at  jake.allen@indystar.com. Follow him on Twitter @Jake_Allen19.

This article originally appeared on Indianapolis Star: Wayne Township firefighter Hank Potter dies of cancer