Lake fire department seeks community’s help

Purchasing special hoods will help shield firefighters from cancer
Submitted by Richie Constantino 

Did you know cancer is the leading cause of firefighter deaths in the United States? Surpassing heart disease, firefighters are succumbing to cancer-related deaths at a 14 percent higher rate than the general public. 

A study conducted from 2002 through 2017 revealed 61 percent of all firefighter line of duty deaths were cancer-related. Furthermore, in 2016 alone that number rose to 70 percent. Why is that? Why has cancer been so prolific in firefighting over the past two decades? The answer is that firefighters are dealing with far more toxic soot and cancer-causing particulates than ever before. 

Since this alarming increase, and the recent deaths of several local firefighters from cancer-related illnesses, the Lake Monticello Volunteer Fire Department (LMVFD) has taken a progressive and assertive approach to combat these frightening occurrences.   

LMVFD has implemented procedures in an attempt to minimize our firefighters exposure to these toxic situations both at actual fires and on the training ground. As per department standard operating guidelines, when exiting contaminated atmospheres, all firefighters will immediately begin a decontamination process consisting of: 

  • Blowing away any smoke and cancer-causing substances from their turnout gear with ventilation fans. 
  • While still wearing their gear, the firefighters will be scrubbed from head to toe with soap and water and then rinsed clean. 
  • After firefighters remove their hood, they must wipe their hands, face, neck, ears and under their arms where cancer-causing substances enter the body. 
  • Immediately upon their return to the firehouse, firefighters must place their gear into a special washing machine-extractor to completely remove the suspicious materials. 

Studies have shown the head and neck are the most susceptible areas where cancer-causing materials enter the body. The current hood worn by firefighters to protect these areas does very little to prevent the infiltration of these substances. To combat this alarming trend, a special particulate hood has been developed to block 99.9 percent of the potentially harmful particulates; however, the price per hood averages $110 as compared to $25 for the conventional hood. Our goal is to purchase these new state-of-the-art hoods for every member of LMVFD.  

Budgets being as they are, LMVFD cannot afford to replace all current in-service hoods with new particulate hoods which provide your volunteer firefighters the best protection available. Understanding the immediate need for these hoods, our local State Farm Insurance agent Gary Albert has partnered with LMVFD to help raise money to purchase these particulate hoods. “The volunteers at LMVFD put the community first,” Albert said. They give their time selflessly to help others. I want to raise money so the volunteers have upgraded hoods to protect their health while protecting our community.” 

You can assist us in reaching our goal of making your volunteer firefighters as safe as possible. All you have to do is visit Albert’s office at 202 Turkeysag Trail, or call 434-589-0844, mention LMVFD and request a free quote. Each LMVFD quote for May and June will result in a $10 donation from Gary Albert State Farm and State Farm’s Neighborhood of Good.   

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