TYLER, Texas (KLTV) - Firefighters face danger every single day, but the number one danger comes as an unfortunate side effect of their work.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, cancer is the number one killer of firefighters.
Lung, esophageal and stomach cancers are the most common types of cancers among firefighters today. Tyler Fire Marshal Paul Findley says he has seen it affect our firemen each year.
“What has been found in recent studies is that not only can we be diagnosed with cancer that we’ve gotten as a result of breathing in toxins, also if it gets in our eyes and also absorption, just getting on the skin,” Findley said.
That is why the Tyler Fire Department has taken cancer-reduction initiatives like purchasing new hoods that prevent the absorption of toxins, self-contained breathing apparatus, and new engine bays to infiltrate the air.
Although the problem continues after the fire as those carcinogens stick to their gear. Findley says four out of the ten Tyler fire stations have a washer extractor that thoroughly cleans personal protective equipment from the toxins.
Currently the stations that don’t have the washer have to go outside of their district to use it. This causes more exposure to toxins, and can potentially increase response times.
But just last week, Tyler City Council accepted a grant to fund the purchase of five additional extractors for every station.
“It’s obviously going to cut back on fuel costs as high as they are right now with trucks traveling across town to bring them. As well as keeping that truck in their district for the calls they have in their area, so a neighboring truck at one of our stations doesn’t have to come over to their district and cover a call.” said Randy Lee, Tyler Deputy Fire Marshal.
Findley says this will promote the health and safety of firefighters throughout their careers and hopefully reduce the risk of cancer.
“What we’re trying to do now is bring these newer firefighters up in a culture that it’s on their mind and so that 20 or 30 years down the road from now whenever they hit retirement, they can be healthy. We’re trying to move the needle in a positive way and i think we are.”
Findley says the commercial washer-extractors will be installed at each station in the next three to four months.
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