In my first article, I presented a compelling case for the relationship of cancer and firefighting. The toxic environment in which firefighters work is well known, yet the fact remains that we can do more to save ourselves from this scourge.
It begins with leadership. The days of wearing dirty gear and blackened helmets are gone. Hoods, helmets, gloves, air packs, and bunker gear need to be cleaned and inspected after every exposure. We cannot forget all the other items that have been exposed including anything and everything that has been in the path of the “toxic snake”. This includes equipment, ladder, hoses, and our apparatus. The list would not be complete if we forget the firefighters. Keeping our bodies clean with a hot/cold shower is part of this protocol.
In my early days as a young firefighter, not much was known about the relationship of toxic fire gases and the effect it had on our bodies. In fact, our bunker pants and boots sat right next to us in our bunk rooms. Today, it has all changed, and for the better. I cannot remember when and why it began to change, but today, that practice is long gone. Something happened over time, and the fire service began to make many changes regarding our health. Day boots were gone, Nomex® hoods were mandatory, and everyone had their own air packs. All this was a step in the right direction, but it was just the beginning.
The general notion that firefighters are fighting less structure fires these days may be true. However, per National Fire Incident Reporting System (NFIRS) data, there is a house fire every 86 seconds in America.