GREEN TWP., Ohio (WKBN) – This week is national Firefighter Safety Stand Down week. It’s a time for emergency workers to check in and look at their physical and mental health.
Firefighters have to deal with the obvious dangers of their jobs, but just because the fire is out doesn’t mean the danger is over. There are risks of cancer and PTSD as well.
Ohio has had a firefighter cancer law in place in 2017, but there are other kinds of protections available for the trucks.
Fire protection is more than just helmets and hoses.
“The gear and equipment has changed a lot,” said Chief Todd Baird of Green Township Fire Department.
Baird has fought thousands of fires during his more than 30 years of services. He’s seen firsthand how the job wears on firefighters.
“There were some older guys here who got cancer and there was nothing around at the time,” Baird said.
According to the CDC, firefighters are more likely to get digestive, oral, respiratory and urinary cancer than civilians.
Younger firemen get prostate cancer earlier in life on average.
“We’ve had increased awareness over the last five years. Any fire we go on, whether it’s a vehicle fire or anything, the employees, or the firefighters, are required to clean their gear when they get back here,” Baird said.
The longer and more often a firefighter is exposed to the cancer-causing chemicals from the fire, the more danger they have of getting cancer.
“After the fire, shower within the hour, get those contaminates off you as quickly as you can,” said Bruce Trego, Pennsylvania State Fire Commissioner.
Those carcinogens can stick around even after one cleaning.
“A day after or two days after you are at a working structure fire when you take a shower, do you smell smoke? And just about everybody says yes, and my reply is why is that still coming out of your body?
Green Township Fire Department keeps a decontamination bucket on the trucks to use at a fire scene and installed a shower at the station within the last year.
Most research to do with firefighters and cancer has concentrated on men, but early studies have shown that breast cancer can be higher in female firefighters.