Besides the dangers of putting out flames, firefighters face another danger long after the fire has been put out. More and more fire departments are changing their cleaning procedures to cut down on exposure to contaminants.
The Little Axe Fire Department has started washing down its crews at the scene of a fire with a mixture of dish soap and water.
“Then they’ll take baby wipes and wash off their arms, their hands, neck and face. Because some of the contaminants can get through the gear and get on the skin,” says Lt. Joshua Reaves with the Little Axe Fire Dept.
The fear is the possible carcinogens that can be breathed in or collected on fire gear.
“When I started here it was not uncommon at all to put your gear in a bag and throw it in the trunk and it would stay there until the next fire,” Lt. Reaves said.
Reaves says the average person has a 39 percent chance on getting cancer. For firefighters, Reaves says research shows the chances are anywhere from the upper fifties to 67 percent.
“It’s really becoming a big concern for us,” Lt. Reaves said.
Lt. Reaves says his department starting thinking about the changes after the death of well-known OKC firefighter Jon Hanson in 2016.