HALIFAX -- An accomplished career firefighter is fighting the biggest battle of his life as he prepares to undergo a double-lung transplant.

Rising to the rank of deputy fire chief, Bruce Burrell had a long career in Halifax before moving to Calgary, where he served as chief of the city’s fire department for nine years.

Burrell decided to retire 15 months early and headed back home to Nova Scotia, but his retirement plans took an unexpected, and unfortunate, turn.

“The first time we met with the respirologist, he told us it was a terminal disease,” says Burrell.

Diagnosed with idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis, doctors told Burrell that a double-lung transplant is the only thing that will save his life.

He is set to undergo the procedure at a hospital in Toronto, but staying in the city for an extended period of time -- between six months and a year -- comes at a price.

A crowdfunding campaign to help pay his expenses in Toronto is picking up traction online -- and helping in more ways than one.

“He’s really been getting all of those messages and it’s been extraordinary for him and I think it’s just what he needs right now,” says his wife, Jennifer Burrell.

As of Thursday afternoon, more than $20,000 of the $30,000 goal had been raised. The couple says they are overwhelmed by the support from Canadians coast-to-coast.

“It’s been utterly overwhelming, just to see the generosity of people,” says Burrell.

As they finalize plans for the procedure in Toronto, the Burrells remain optimistic and grateful for the future, saying they have plenty to be grateful for as they head into the Thanksgiving weekend.