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Eau Claire fire station uses decontamination rooms to cut down on cancer risk

Fire Station 10 uses decontamination rooms to cut down on cancer risk.
Fire Station 10 uses decontamination rooms to cut down on cancer risk.(WEAU)
Published: May. 20, 2019 at 5:38 PM CDT
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Cancer is responsible for more than 60 percent of job related deaths among firefighters in the United States according to NBC news.

Now, a station in the Chippewa Valley is hoping to eliminate that risk or at least reduce the high rate of cancer diagnosis. While being a firefighter is no doubt a dangerous job, the threat of cancer from being exposed to toxins can be deadly. It's prevalent here in the Chippewa Valley and throughout the United States that firefighters are becoming sick and dying from cancer,” said Allyn Bertrang, the deputy chief.

So when the new Fire Station 10 opened last year, decontamination was a priority. "I think in my career it's been I think 5 or 6 firefighters had cancer and one fatally,” said Capt. Tony Biasi of Eau Claire Fire Rescue. “So it's nice to know we are taking that information and we are putting it to prevent."

After getting back from any structure fire calls they head straight to the decontamination rooms. “Take our gear off the truck, our stuff that is dirty and has a lot of products of combustion still in it and we will enter out decon area,” Biasi added.

They start by putting all of their fire gear in the extractor to get clean. Then it's down the hallway to the showers, they take a series of showers by first taking a normal shower, followed by a steam shower and then another regular shower. "It opens up the pores again and elevates the core body temperature and they are able to let some carcinogens that are trapped inside that skin layer that have been absorbed, let's them come out and rinse that stuff off,” Biasi said.

Then it's off to the last room to clean the rest of their clothes before heading into the living quarters. "We've designed it with a dirty side and a clean side inside the firehouse so you don't necessarily mix the air together so the dirty side ventilates out differently than the clean side,” Biasi said.

They do this routine all with a goal of keeping all toxins away from living areas in the fire house. “The main reason to do this is to save firefighter lives,” Biasi said. It's a long cleaning process that could have a lasting impact on firefighter’s health.