For Immediate Release:
Chief Jen Collins-Brown is proud to announce that the Topsfield Fire Department has been awarded a grant from the Commonwealth of Massachusetts to purchase a turnout gear extractor, a special washing machine made for firefighting gear to remove harmful carcinogens that lay in wake, off-gassing and seeping into the bodies of firefighters even when they are not fighting a building fire.
The Topsfield Fire Department has received a $6,416.72 Washer-Extractor Equipment Grant from the Executive Office of Public Safety and Security (EOPSS) and the Department of Fire Services (DFS). This funding will be used to purchase a washer-extractor to effectively clean firefighter turnout gear after it has been exposed to smoke, ash, or other hazardous materials so that firefighters do not have to wear contaminated gear.
TFD initially purchased a commercial grade washing machine over 15 years ago, before gear extractors were made available specifically for fire stations. In addition to gear extractors, TFD has implemented policies on gross decontamination on scene of a fire or similar incident with harmful exposures, as well as procedures for washing air-packs and hoses that become contaminated while fighting fires. Since then, technology has been advanced and turnout gear extractors have been uniquely designed to handle the soot and contaminants embedded in the rugged material that makes up firefighter’s gear.
A national standard set by the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) on the care and cleaning of structural firefighting gear delineates specific types of machines that should be used to effectively remove cancer-causing chemicals after each exposure to smoke or fire. This grant will enable TFD personnel to clean their gear in a compliant manner after each exposure, and respond to the next emergency in gear that they know has been cleaned properly.
“This gear will protect our firefighters from receiving repeated exposure to the cancer causing chemicals they encounter on a daily basis” said Chief Collins-Brown. When a firefighter enters a building to search for and remove victims or extinguish a fire, ambient air temperatures can easily reach over 1,000 degrees Fahrenheit. This increase in temperature not only creates high levels of physical stress on our firefighters, but also super-heats their bodies, opening their sweat pores more than normal. This allows for the skin to absorb 400 times as much toxins every 5 degrees the skin temperature increases.
“We now know that the risk of being diagnosed with occupational cancer is among the greatest threats faced by modern firefighters, and establishment of an NFPA-compliant gear washing program is critical to mitigating that risk,” said State Fire Marshal Peter J. Ostroskey. “We are thankful that the Commonwealth has made this a priority and invested in the advancement of the ongoing cancer prevention efforts of fire departments across the state.”
Funding for this grant program was made available through the Baker-Polito administration for fire departments across the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.