Firefighters and Cancer

Firefighters and cancer. If you’re a firefighter you must read this. If you’re a firefighter with a family (or look to have one sometime in the Firefighters and cancerfuture) you must read this. If you’re just a person who loves and respects firefighters, you must read this.

A powerful piece of prose about one firefighter’s “come to Jesus” moment with cancer. An equally powerful message about how everyone in the fire service needs to “get on the bus” concerning firefighting and the dramatically increased risk of cancers we–and our families–face.

Learn from a brother firefighter before it’s “your turn” (Or a member of your family).

Firefighters and cancerThe white paper, Taking Action Against Cancer in the Fire Service, published by the Firefighter Cancer Support Network, provides the following 11 immediate actions that firefighters can take to help protect themselves. The document also stresses the importance of annual medical exams since early detection and treatment are essential to increasing survival.

  1. Use SCBA from initial attack to finish of overhaul. (Not wearing SCBA in both active and post-fire environments is the most dangerous voluntary activity in the fire service today. [Emphasis added]).
  2. Do gross field decon of PPE to remove as much soot and particulates as possible.
  3. Use Wet-Nap or baby wipes to remove as much soot as possible from head, neck, jaw, throat, underarms, and hands immediately and while still on the scene.
  4. Change your 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 your 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 sun block.

Read the full white paper.

ResourcesFirefighters and cancer

Firefighter Cancer Support Network

International Firefighter Cancer Foundation


About Robert Avsec, Executive Fire Officer

Battalion Chief (Ret.) Robert Avsec served with the men and women of the Chesterfield County (VA) Fire and EMS Department for 26 years. He’s now using his acquired knowledge, skills, and experiences as a freelance writer for and as the “blogger in chief” for this blog. Chief Avsec makes his home in Cross Lanes, WV. Contact him via e-mail, [email protected].