Dan Benecke, Ridgeville fire chief, said last week his department has received a $15,000 grant to protect firefighters from exposure to chemicals.
The grant, obtained through the Ohio Bureau of Worker’s Compensation, will pay for an extractor, 27 pairs of gloves, and 27 hoods.
Recently, there has been a nationwide concern among firefighters about exposure to hazardous chemicals while fighting fires.
Of particular concern are cancer-causing agents that may be in smoke from a fire.
Particles can be absorbed through exposed skin or on firefighters’ turnout gear, only to later come in contact with the skin.
Benecke said the issue came to the forefront after a number of those who worked at the World Trade Center site in New York City following the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks began suffering from a wide variety of cancers.
The extractor, Benecke explained, is essentially a large, heavy-duty washing machine for turnout gear.
“It washes and takes out all of the contaminants. Then it spins very fast,” Benecke said.
In the high-speed spin, water left in the gear is removed by centrifugal force.
Once out of the extractor, the gear is damp, but not soaking wet. The department does not have a heavyduty drier for turnout gear.
The department has a washer and dryer now, but they are not a heavy-duty type.
At The Scene
Benecke said within the last year, RFD has implemented new policies and procedures for decontamination of firefighters after they leave a fire.
“We do self-decontamination at the scene. We mix up a five-gallon bucket with soaps for each firefighter and use brushes to self-decontaminate,” he said.
To return to the station, the gear is then placed in either the back of a pickup truck or an external cabinet on one of the fire trucks; it’s not worn back inside the fire truck cab.
“Even though it’s somewhat clean, it’s still what they call off-gassing,” or releasing chemical vapors.
The gear is hung in an open area– not a closed compartment.
The hoods and gloves are state of the art, Benecke said.
“It’s the best at keeping hydrocarbons off the skin,” he said.
Firefighters were showing signs of skin cancer on their wrists and necks.
Hoods, he said, protect firefighters’ necks between the bottoms of their helmets and the tops of their turnout coat collars.
“A lot of the old-city firefighters would take the hoods and wrap them around their neck, because they could feel the heat of a fire on their ears. If their ears got too hot, they knew to pull back.
“You look at a lot of oldcity firefighters, and their ears are burned,” he said.
“I’m doing my best to keep my guys protected.”
If money is your hope for independence you will never have it. The only real security that a man will have in this world is a reserve of knowledge, experience and ability.–Henry Ford
There are many who talk on from ignorance rather than from knowledge, and who find the former an inexhaustible fund of conversation.– William Hazlitt