Columbus hopes new clothing equipment will help protect firefighters from cancer

Local News

COLUMBUS (WCMH) — Columbus fire recruits are training in gear that could possibly prevent them from getting cancer while keeping the public safe.

Studies show cancer rates are higher among firefighters.

It is why the City of Columbus is taking a step to keep its firefighters safe with new clothing.

The new structural fire protective clothing is specifically designed to reduce exposure of potentially dangerous particulates finding their way into firefighter’s clothing, but first, recruits have to get used to the new gear.

“All these new recruits will get the opportunity to go through our personal protective equipment class to know how this gear works, to know the components of it, and why we wear this gear,” said fire lieutenant Mike Bishop.

The recruits performed tasks such as getting dressed quickly to learning how to maneuver in small spaces in their new clothes.

“The state mandates they get this gear on and get on air in less than two minutes,” said Bishop. “We expect them to get it in under a minute and a half. You have to know how to do this day one when you get out on the streets.”

Bishop added the training can be the difference between life and death for firefighters, and it is something he knows all too well.

“I was diagnosed with stage 4 Hodgkins Lymphoma about four or five years ago,” said Bishop.

It was a diagnosis that hit him hard, but it’s a diagnosis he beat after months of chemo and treatment.

It’s why he is watching and talking with recruits as they train with their new gear.

Traditional firefighter turnout gear has focused on providing the optimal balance of thermal protection and breathability, without adding additional heat stress.

The new gear has elastic around the openings of the fire clothing to prevent air from touching a firefighters’ skin.

It is part of Columbus Fire’s goal to reduce the exposures to toxic by-products that are released during a fire.

Bishop said he lost one friend to cancer and one is too many, and it is why he wants to teach these new recruits before they jump into action.

“That’s part of the reason I come out here and teach to make sure you’re wearing your gear appropriately so you don’t have the exposures that maybe I had when I first came on,” he said.

The new gear will begin to roll out this month with the newest fire recruit class. The division is working on a plan to provide the new gear to every firefighter over the next few years.

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