By Heather Lusk
Because cancer is the leading cause of firefighter deaths in the U.S., according to the International Association of Firefighters, the Zionsville Fire Dept. has taken steps to help increase the safety of local firefighters.
During and after a call, firefighters are instructed to decontaminate gear to help reduce exposure to contaminates. The equipment was recently added to their vehicles to speed the process.
“Even before we get back in the firetruck, we do a gross decontamination, getting the really thick particles off gear multiple times throughout the event,” Deputy Chief Jeff Beam said.
ZFD recently purchased 35 sets of fire gear, costing $2,713 per set, to ensure that each of the 82 firefighters has two sets of gear.
“It’s very easy for us to get those things clean, to wash those items and get (dressed) in a clean set while we’re waiting for the others to dry,” Beam said. “We’re never going to completely eliminate the exposure, but we try to limit the exposure.”
Earlier this month, firefighters received decontaminate instruction from Lt. Steve Hayes, who conducted a cancer prevention training. Cancer survivors from other local departments shared their personal stories with ZFD.
No cancer-related deaths or illness have been reported by ZFD firefighters, but these steps are an attempt to prevent that in the future.
“We’re a very young department, and so luckily we have not seen any of those items come up in our membership,” Beam said. “This is all purely there to try to avoid just those things from happening to our members.”