LAKELAND, Fla. — Protective hoods and replacements, foot washing stations, and cleaning supplies to wash down gear after a fire are all some of the new measures the Lakeland Fire Department is implementing in order to prevent its firefighters from being exposed to cancer-causing carcinogens.
- Lakeland Fire taking preventative measures against cancer
- Cancer is the leading cause of line of duty deaths among firefighters
- Also redesigned truck to prevent carcinogens from getting in the cab
“Well I’m encouraged (with) the fact that our department and departments like ours are implementing these changes to help better protect firefighters like myself and others,” said Driver Engineer Paramedic Derek McBrayer with Lakeland Fire Department.
“We’ve been slowly moving to do a gear swap for our firefighters, and better decontamination procedures out in the field, so we can leave the carcinogens on the scene and not bring them back,” said Asst. Chief Rick Hartzog.
According to the International Association of Firefighters, cancer is the leading cause of line of duty deaths among firefighters.
It’s worrisome for McBrayer.
“I’m concerned but it’s not enough to make me want to get out of this profession. I think this profession is important. I think that as long as we take the right preventive measures, detect it early and treat it, I think we can overcome it,” said McBrayer.
He knows at least four firefighters who’ve died from cancer and a dozen more who’ve survived it.
Lakeland fire department has at least two survivors.
“I don’t want anyone else to go through what I went through if there’s a way to prevent it. And so I think with the foot wash station, shower within an hour, decontamination procedures, I think these things are so vitally important,” said Jordan Venable.
Now the fire department is working to implement firefighter-designed physicals that detect occupational cancers in the early stages.
“We recognize that we have to change culturally in the fire service. We have to do a better job of protecting our firefighters with early prevention techniques. Also early detection techniques like a better firefighter physical,” said Asst. Chief Hartzog.
The department has also redesigned its truck to prevent carcinogens from getting in the cab. Its inspectors are also trading in their cars for pickup trucks for the same reason.