Taking Action Against Cancer in the Fire Service

There are 11 recommended immediate actions firefighters can take to protect themselves:

  1. Use SCBA from initial attack to finish of overhaul.  Not wearing SCBA in active and post-fire environments is the most dangerous voluntary action in the fire service today.
  2. Perform gross field decon of person protective equipment (PPE) to remove as much soot and particulates as possible.
  3. Use wet wipes to remove as much soot as possible from head, neck, jaw, throat, underarms and hands immediately and while on scene.
  4. Change clothes and wash them immediately after a fire.
  5. Shower thoroughly after a fire.
  6. Clean your PPE, gloves, hood, and helmet immediately after a fire.
  7. Do not take contaminated clothes or PPE home or store it in a vehicle.
  8. Decon fire apparatus interior after fires.
  9. Keep bunker gear out of living and sleeping quarters.
  10. Stop using tobacco products.
  11. Use sunscreen or sunblock.

Bolton Fire Department has reviewed these recommended actions and has instituted policies to follow these guidelines.

  1. SCBA is understood to be a primary form of protection both during an active fire situation and during post-fire overhaul.  Bolton firefighters are required to wear SCBA and the atmosphere is metered to determine if toxic gases are present.  We also have policies in place for cleaning and caring for SCBA components following any call where it is used.
  2. When appropriate, gear is washed down at a scene to limit the debris that is transported by the interior of the fire apapratus.
  3. Wet wipes are provided on every apparatus for firefighters to use during an incident and while returning to the station after a call.
  4. Firefighters are encouraged to keep a secondary set of clothing in the station in provided lockers.
  5. Showers are provided in the station and firefighters are encouraged to use them.
  6. A decon area is designated in a room adjacent to the gear room.  There is a large industrial sink, soap, and brushes for gross decon of gear.  A specialty gear washing machine is provided for firefighters to wash gear after an active fire and a special gear dryer is used to limit the time gear is out of service.
  7. Bolton firefighters are not permitted to take gear home and/or store it within a vehicle.  Gear is kept at the station and firefighters respond to the station before going to a call.
  8. After returning from an active fire call, firefighters take care of their PPE and equipment used during the incident.  This may include washing hose, decon of non-washable items in the decon sink, and starting the process of washing gear in the machine.  Before a call is finished, the firefighting crew cleans the apparatus interior and ensures all equipment is restored.
  9. Bunker gear is not permitted in the day-use room.  There is a door between the two areas and a sign to remind firefighters to leave gear in the gear room or apparatus bay floor.
  10. Massachusetts General Law c.41 s.101A prohibits police officers and firefighters employed after 1988 to smoke tobacco products.
  11. The use of sunscreen and sunblock is always encouraged for firefighters and the general public.

For more information about firefighter cancer risks, please visit: https://firefightercancersupport.org/