Firefighter cancer was the leading cause of career line of duty deaths between 2002 and 2017. Deputy Chief Darin Wallentine of the Tucson Fire Department joins us to share more information during National Firefighter Cancer Awareness month.
Firefighters have a 9% greater chance of being diagnosed with cancer and a 14% greater chance of dying from cancer than the general U.S. population. A contributing factor is new building materials that can create a toxic soup when aflame.
While the Personal Protective Equipment worn by our firefighters is state of the art, it does not completely eliminate the risk. Inhalation exposure is the greatest risk, but dermal exposure and ingestion are also factors. One of the goals of National Firefighter Cancer Awareness Month is to deliver targeted education about best practices and resources to reduce the impact of cancer on our firefighters.
Darin provides examples of some of the simple procedures that can reduce risk. One of which is the very “low tech” post fire decontamination technique consisting of a five gallon bucket of water with Dawn dish soap added. Using wet wipes at the fire scene and a “shower within an hour” after returning to the station are also recommended procedures. Some departments have the ability to provide their crews with a second set of turnouts so firefighters always have a fresh and clean set.
Listeners are asked to engage with their local governments to makes sure that their local departments have the funding to make sure their public safety personnel always have the funds necessary to supply the best equipment.
TAKEAWAY: “I look at Firefighting as a blessing and a curse. It’s the greatest job in the world but on the flip side of the coin it can be a curse when you are sitting in a doctor’s office getting that diagnosis you weren’t expecting.”