OHIO COUNTY, W.Va. (WTRF) — Firefighters are battling more than just flames.
This month we bring awareness to the dangers they face and the preventative measures they take to keep them safe.
Firefighter occupational cancer is the leading cause of line-of-duty deaths in the fire service.
So by prevention and awareness, firefighters hope to reduce the risk of getting the disease.
Wheeling Fire Department Chief Jim Blazier said, “When the materials that are in our homes and businesses, when they catch fire, due to how they’re made, they release a lot of hydrocarbons.”
They are also exposed to the diesel exhaust from the trucks they drive.
There are hoses that connect to the exhaust to pump the fumes outside instead of in the building.
Chief Blazier said they try to educate the fire fighters on preventive care especially the gear the wear.
One of those preventable measures is firefighters exchange hoods after every fire to protect their head and neck.
After a crew battles a fire they are hosed down on scene so any big particles from the fire gets rinsed off.
Once back in house the firefighter changes into clean gear and places the other gear directly in the washer
Local 12 President Bob Heldreth said good hygiene is key.
“Get the carcinogens off our bodies, and even go as far as an extra long hot shower or sauna to release our pores and get those toxins out of our system,” said Heldreth.
Back in 2018 a bill was passed to help firefighter families who lost their hero to a battle with cancer.
It helped them to gain compensation for their loved one for putting their life on the line.
Heldreth said it’s incredible to have that help and protection but even better to have the education to protect themselves in every way possible.
Blazier said this is something that hits very close to home for them as they have lost several retired and active members to the disease.
Some of the cancers firefighters battle are lymphoma, leukemia, and multiple myeloma.