Muskogee firefighters dress firetruck, selves in pink

MUSKOGEE, Okla. - A Muskogee Fire Department pumper truck enshrouded in pink last week has become quite the community – and Internet – sensation, according to one firefighter.

The firefighter, John Tipton who happened to have been just promoted from captain to assistant fire chief, told 2NEWS on Monday that on Sunday nearly a week ago, nearly 20 firefighters spent 10 hours applying a pink vinyl wrap to the truck to raise breast cancer awareness.

During the process which lasted from 8:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m., he took photographs of the work which he then posted on the fire department's Facebook page .

The "very challenging" project finished many hours later, he looked at the page and what he saw surprised
him.

"The 'likes' were way up there," he said, saying that one photo had 11,400 likes. That number grew to more than 19,000 'Likes' a week later. Two days after its posting, the picture got more than 124,000 hits, said Tipton.

"I realized Facebook was popular, but not that popular," he told 2NEWS.

Tipton told 2NEWS on the nice weather days when the firefighters leave the truck parked outside, many passer-bys stop to view the truck and to have their pictures.

"We've had a lot of positive feedback from the public and Facebook," he said.

But the feedback isn't really why he and the department dressed the truck in pink.

Tipton said seven years ago to the day he and his men completed the wrap, a doctor told him the bad news that his wife had breast cancer.

The doctor tried to cheer him saying the medical staff found the cancer early and that the survival rate was 100 percent if the cancer was found early enough. But Tipton couldn't be raised.

"It was pretty devastating news. Any time you hear the "C" word, its devastating," he said. "The doctor was excited but I tended to think the worst."

Seven years later, after his wife went through a double-mastectomy and multiple reconstructive surgeries, his wife is a survivor.

During her fight against cancer, he fought alongside her, fighting fire while on duty and fighting cancer when off – taking on all the house chores and other duties while working to support his wife.

"It was pretty trying on the family – a lot to go through."

He said looking at his wife and how she fought through the cancer, he sees a hero.

"I'd rather crawl into a burning house than go though what they have to," he said, speaking of those battling cancer.

Now, having been through the struggle with his wife, he has brought the fire department into the fight. Every member of the department now fights cancer by wearing pink and selling pink shirts to fund a local breast cancer awareness foundation.

Four days after they started selling their "Muskogee Firefighters for a Cure" T-shirts, they sold out after selling 300 shirts. Another 500 are on order.

Tipton told 2NEWS how his wife's struggle against cancer changed him.

"Before, I had nothing to do with the color pink. I didn't touch pink. After I went through all of that, I will gladly wear pink."

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