VALDOSTA, Ga. (WALB) - Firefighting can be a dangerous profession.
Firefighters face a 9 percent increase in cancer diagnoses, and a 14 percent increase in cancer-related deaths, compared to the general population. That is according to the National Fire Protection Association.
The Valdosta Fire Department said they want to protect their members with new gear.
“Cancer prevention is something that is a focus for fire service now. When I started in the fire service, we wore our gear in the stations. We actually slept with our gear beside the bed and you would get a call in the middle of the night. You got up, put your gear on, run to the truck and answer the call,” said Fire Chief Brian Boutwell.
Boutwell said their goal is to provide each firefighter with two structural firefighting gear.
The city just approved the purchase of 30 new sets.
This puts the department at 70 percent of all crew members having multiple sets.
“There’s sometimes, members come back from a fire, their gear is covered in carcinogens and smoke. We put measures in place for them to clean that gear and with two sets of gears, they can take their dirty gear, go ahead and get it cleaned, while they are waiting for that gear to get cleaned and dry they put on their second set of gear,” said Boutwell.
In 2020, the department answered 131 structure fire calls, some were back-to-back on the same day.
Two sets of gear played a crucial role in those instances.
“Some of the things we do at the City of Valdosta to protect our people is, of course, the gear with the particulate reducing system in it. We also provide deacon wipes at every structure fires our members are encouraged to use the wipes to remove carcinogens and smoke particles from exposed skin. We also have hoods that are laundered and they’re in bags,” said Boutwell.
This purchase will not fulfill the goal, but it’s the next step in reaching their goal.