New equipment could extinguish elevated cancer risk in firefighters

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ASHLAND, Ky. (WSAZ) — Firefighters run towards danger every day to save people and put out fires. It’s a dangerous job that has more risks than people realize.

Health researchers say firefighters have an elevated risk at getting cancer over people in other professions.

“With further and further studies that are coming out, they're starting to see that it's not the fire, it's the smoke that's carrying that toxic atmosphere that's really putting our lives at risk,” said Ashland firefighter Chad Stevens.

The Ashland Fire Department is trying to extinguish the higher risk of cancer in their crews. Recently they’ve implemented new health and cleaning polices and procedures to minimize any potential issues.

One of the new procedures is a total wash down when they are finished at a scene. The decontaminator works similar to a pressure washer. The department was able to get the device with help from Our Lady of Bellefonte Hospital.

“When a firefighter comes out of a structure, they immediately go to that station,” explained Stevens. “Being washed off which in itself will take 90 percent of the toxins off.”

Those toxins come from materials that are burning in buildings. Stevens says the fumes in the smoke is what’s the most dangerous.

The department is now looking at trying to fund other equipment.

“Probably one of the most surprising things is there's not a whole lot of initiatives out there for us that says, ‘This is going to treat this and help prevent cancer for now and in the future.’”

The department says since they posted about their new equipment, other departments have reached out asking for guidance to get the devices too.