Firefighters fight internal battle

Firefighters fight internal battle

WILMINGTON, NC (WECT) - Fire departments across the country are seeing an increase of men and women contracting cancer.

Toxins that cause cancer are being released when burned, which has led to more cases of the disease in firefighters.

“We’re using a lot of plastics and a lot of synthetics in modern day builds,” says Captain Chris Stenerson with the Wilmington Fire Department. “If you look at a modern, residential house, it’s made of wood that’s glued together, pressed together. They’re wrapped in plastic with a vapor barrier underneath the plastic siding. There’s a lot of things that are burning that are putting off a ton of chemicals that are bad for anyone to absorb.”

Firefighter uniforms protect them from heat and flames but not from the toxic gases that can be absorbed into them. The Wilmington Fire Department has put regulations in place to try to get rid of the toxins.

Fire departments across the country are taking the following steps to stop harmful toxins:

  • Mandatory use respiratory protection whenever they are operating on a fire.
  • Decontamination kits on every rig. When firefighters are coming out of a structure, before they are even getting their stuff off and getting into the rig, they are washing off trying to get some of the toxins off of their gear.
  • Wash packs and gear.
  • Washing and drying uniforms at the stations so they don’t bring the toxins home with them.
  • Attempting to get every firefighter a second set of gear so when they come out of a structure fire, they can take that gear out of service and get it washed and laundered and have a fresh set of gear to use for the next call.

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