Firefighters have a 9% higher risk of being diagnosed with cancer than the general public and a 14 % higher risk of dying from cancer than the general public. Cancer is the leading cause of Firefighter Line of Duty Deaths causing 61 % of deaths since 2002.
While our gear is made to protect us from exposure to high heat conditions our bodies when exposed to heat cause our pores open allowing toxins to be absorbed into our skin.
Currently Virginia covers 10 types of Cancer under workers compensation for occupational diseases that MAY be covered if certain criteria is met.
In Roanoke County we are proactive and have policies in place to try and lessen our exposure to those harmful toxins.
- While still on scene of the incident we have Decon buckets on apparatus (consisting of soap, brushes, garden hoses) that we use to wash off the visible particles of debris.
- Once returned to the station the Firefighter has to dissemble their PPE and place it in a commercial grade extractor (large washing machine) to help remove further toxins.
- Once washed the gear must dry in a commercial dryer or placed inside the bays to dry, as we can not just sit them in the sun as sun exposure will damage the material.
There are several draw backs with this process…..
- we only have one dedicated set of gear per Firefighter they must borrow someone’s gear till theirs is cleaned. The cost for a second set of just Coat and Pants cost around $3500
- we currently only have 4 extractors and dryers available so we must transport contaminated gear to those locations for cleaning. When multiple companies are on the scene of the call and their gear must be cleaned it leads to a long line at the laundry mat……. This is very time consuming as you can see
- The cost of an extractor is about $12,000 and a Dryer is about $8,000
A few months ago, we were contacted by Hidden Valley High School Senior Micah Peay who is completing her Eagle Scout project. Micah is part of Scouts BSA All Girl Troop 11 in Roanoke for young ladies ages 11 to 17 years old.
Micah comes from a Firefighting family where her father and uncle are both Firefighters in Roanoke City. Micah explained she wanted to provide us with a PVC gear dryer that we can utilize to hang our gear once finished in the extractor. This project provides a frame work of PVC with several valves and places the air, that is provided by a blower motor, can pass thru the fabric and speed up the drying process.
On Tuesday Oct 5th at 5PM, Micah will be delivering her project to the Cave Spring Fire Station located at 4212 Old Cave Spring Rd. Please come and support this young lady as she finishes her Eagle Scout project which is a HUGE accomplishment.