The Oklahoma City Fire Department is rolling out a new piece of equipment that’s helping to keep them dry and hopefully cancer free.
Over the past month, firefighters have built more than 30 bunker dryers, helping to save the department tens of thousands of dollars.
“It's an industrial fan that forces air up through the structure,” said OKCFD Sgt. Todd Burkhead.
The bunker dryer is comprised of a maze of PVC pipe, helping to keep firefighters like Sgt. Burkhead dry.
“Not only do you not have to worry fatigue because of the gear being that much heavier, but just comfort and mobility. You can move better because the gear isn’t sticking to you,” said Sgt. Burkhead.
Sgt. Burkhead is behind the ingenuity and design. He said heat was compromising the integrity of their bunker gear and firefighters were forced hang dry them. So, many of them were still wet as they headed to their next call.
“You wash it. Normally, before we had these, it would take two to three days to dry if it was a well-ventilated area. But now, we’ve got it down under eight hours,” said Sgt. Burkhead.
In 2013, the U.S. National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health reported that firefighters developed cancer at higher rates than the general population, because of their exposure to carcinogens.
“You come out of a structure fire, you see guys that have black all over them, insulation all over them,” said Sgt. Burkhead.
Over the past year, In an effort to curb cancer numbers, firefighters hose off after every fire.
“It's saturated, it's wet, it's cold,” said Sgt. Burkhead.
Once back at the station, firefighters head to the dryers to hang their gear.
“We've designed and built a bunker gear dryer, which will hold five sets of bunker gear with five of gloves,” said Sgt. Burkhead.
Each bunker gear dryer runs the department between $1,000 and $2,000, the cost of supplies. At retail, they'd run the department around $10,000.