ESTILL COUNTY, Ky. (LEX 18)– Studies show firefighters are more likely to be diagnosed with certain types of cancer than members of the general public. One fire department is implementing new policies to combat that frightening statistic.
“You don’t feel it. The after effect isn’t immediate, it’s something that catches you 10 years down the road, 15 years down the road,” said Captain Chad Neal of the Irvine Fire Department. “You see it every day, a fireman just now retiring, just now being able to enjoy their lives and enjoy their families after they’ve earned their retirement are now having to battle cancer.”
Captain Neal said firefighters in Irvine have started taking steps to fight back. Nothing has changed in how they respond, but once the fire is out, decontamination begins.
Many think that a mask is all a firefighter needs to protect themselves from contaminants entering their body, but harmful chemicals can get in through pores.
“We have a small garden hose, just a regular water hose that comes off of our fire engine, they just get briefly sprayed off, get the bulk of everything off of the gear,” said Neal.
That gear is then thrown in the bed of a pickup truck and taken back to the station to be washed with a special product.
“Once our gear is clean, we’ve cleaned everything we can, we then go to clean ourselves. We take showers,” said Neal.
He said that this is the tip of the iceberg in their fight against cancer risks.
“I feel like it’s going to continue to get bigger and bigger, until hopefully, the technology evolves to where we’re protecting our firemen better,” he said.