To test the hypothesis that firefighter exposures may increase cancer risk, mortality rates were calculated for 3,066 San Francisco Fire Department firefighters employed between 1940 and 1970. Vital status was ascertained through 1982, and observed and expected rates, rate ratios (RR), and 95% confidence intervals (CI) were computed using United States death rates for comparison. The total number deceased (1,186) was less than expected and there were fewer cancer deaths than expected. However, there were significant excess numbers of deaths from esophageal cancer (12 observed, 6 expected), cirrhosis and other liver diseases (59 observed, 26 expected), and accidental falls (21 observed, 11 expected). There were 24 line-of-duty deaths, which were primarily due to vehicular injury, falls, and asphyxiation. Heart disease and respiratory disease deaths occurred significantly less often than expected. It was concluded that the increased risks of death from esophageal cancer and cirrhosis and other liver diseases may have been due to firefighter exposures, alcohol consumption, or interaction between alcohol and exposures. Because this was an older cohort and firefighter exposures have changed due to the increasing use of synthetic materials, it is recommended that the effects of modern-day exposures be further studied.