Last week, Oneonta Fire & Rescue began the construction and installation process of their new turn out gear washer/extractor and drying system. This unit, which was purchased with funds awarded through the Assistance to Firefighters Grant, is not your ordinary washer and dryer system; it offers the perfect balance of providing a wash that is not too light and not too harsh on turnout gear.
Although turn out gear is designed to protect firefighters against heat, it does not completely protect them from the soot that seeps into the gaps around the face, neck, hands, and legs. With an increase in body temperature of just five degrees, a person’s pores open up, and, as in the case of a firefighter, they can absorb up to 400 percent more of the harmful toxins.
With being exposed to a deadly mix of carcinogens, there is a 9 percent increase in the chance of a firefighter being diagnosed with cancer than the average citizen. Sadly, 60 percent of the deaths among career firefighters are cancer related.
Risk Reduction Officer Jonathan Ledbetter said, “Over its lifespan, this equipment will protect not only the lives of our firefighters, but also their families. This has been at the forefront of everyone’s mind since losing one of our own, Rex Allred, to cancer in March of last year.”
Currently, the improved way of cleaning turn out gear through the use of washer extractors seems to be the best solution in helping protect firefighters. By using these innovative machines, it will further protect firefighters against harmful soot they are often exposed to. Other county departments will also have access to the system.
Oneonta Fire Chief Kenneth Booth had this to say about the installation of the washer/extractor system. “This equipment will ensure we are taking another step to protect our personnel by preventing repeated exposure to carcinogenic chemicals. Our firefighters take significant risks every time they respond to an emergency. This equipment is one way we can protect them by ensuring they have clean gear every time they put it on.”