SFFR Looking To Protect Members From Cancer
The International Association of Firefighters says cancer is the leading cause of death for firefighters
SIOUX FALLS, S.D. – A firefighter’s job is dangerous. There’s no doubt about that. Crews face the potential of getting badly burned, or not being able to escape the flames. But the International Association of Firefighters says these are not the most dangerous risks. Cancer is claiming more of their lives than anything else.
When a fire breaks out, speediness is on firefighters minds.
“They want to get in there, take care of what’s going on, put the fire out, clean things up and get going,” says Sioux Falls Fire Rescue Division Chief Steve Fessler.
Dealing with the emergency at hand is top priority. But Sioux Falls Fire Rescue Division Chief Steve Fessler says they also need to think about future affects of putting out fires.
“Fighting the cancer part of the things is extremely important for our health and safety both physically and mentally,” says Fessler.
According to the Firefighter Cancer Support Network, cancer caused 70 percent of the line-of-duty deaths for career firefighters in 2016 due to toxic chemicals. Right now two members are battling blood cancers.
“We [also] have retirees that have passed away from cancer or battled cancer,” says Fessler.
Knowing this, the fire department is putting effort into limiting the amount of smoke and chemicals firefighters are exposed to.
“One of the first things that we do when we get back to the station, we’ll get our trucks back in order, but then we go and we shower and get clean before we have to go on the next go around,” says Fessler.
Fessler says they’re even re-designing some of their trucks to fit their gear in a compartment, away from where they sit.
“The off gassing from the bunker gear, the helmets that kind of stuff are finding to be where a lot of these carcinogens are coming from,” he explains.
So even though public safety is their job, Fessler says they also have to make sure each other are safe while doing it.
“To know those simple things of wiping down your neck when you come out, washing your hands with soap and water, or getting out of your gear, getting your gear cleaned,” says Fessler.
Experts say the types of cancers firefighters are diagnosed with most include leukemia, lymphoma or myeloma.