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Holmatro becomes official supplier to FIA

World-class safety and rescue company to provide equipment to FIA World Championship circuits

Having supplied tools for the IndyCar safety team since 1991, Holmatro has become a leader in manufacturing rescue equipment to assist in the quick and safe extrication of race drivers following incidents on track. Holmatro’s cordless and powerful tools are ideal for the motor sport environment, where drivers need to be extricated from carbon fibre monocoques and high-strength roll-cage structures. Over the years it has been Holmatro’s goal to translate their learnings in racing into innovative rescue tools that raise the level of global post-crash response.

As officially announced at the FIA Conference 2019 in South Africa, Holmatro has become a FIA Official Supplier and will provide its latest hydraulic cutting and spreading equipment to FIA sanctioned circuits worldwide.

As part of the new agreement Holmatro will work with the FIA Safety and Medical departments to provide equipment along with training to support local crews and ensure the highest standards. In addition, FIA National Sporting Authorities will have direct access to FIA approved and standardized Holmatro rescue equipment for its racing series.


Adam Baker, FIA Safety Director, said: “We are delighted to be able to provide Holmatro’s state-of-the-art equipment to our circuits worldwide. It is crucial that rescue teams have access to the latest rescue tools which meet the rigorous standards we set and to training programs that further enhance safety.”

Harm Hermans, Holmatro CEO, said: “Holmatro is proud to be chosen as an official supplier to the FIA and bring our rescue equipment to circuits worldwide. We believe in constant improvement and innovation when it comes to safety, and this is a further demonstration of the quality of our world-class tools and extrication training & consultancy.”

FIA logo

About FIA

The Fédération Internationale de l’Automobile is the governing body of world motor sport and the federation of the world’s leading motoring organizations. Founded in 1904, it brings together 240 national motoring and sporting organizations from more than 144 countries, representing millions of motorists worldwide. In motor sport, it administers the rules and regulations for all international four-wheel sport, including the FIA Formula One World Championship and FIA World Rally Championship.

Holmatro logo

About Holmatro

Holmatro is a leading rescue equipment manufacturer founded in the Netherlands in 1967. It is the single biggest global supplier of innovative high-pressure hydraulic rescue tools worldwide, with manufacturing facilities in the US and the Netherlands. With over 400 employees, it has three headquarters worldwide to serve authorized business partners in more than 160 countries.

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Lavender Ribbon Report – Best Practices for Preventing Firefighter Cancer

Lavender Cancer Report cover

The fire service is faced with one of the most important cultural changes in our history. This change will dictate the way we do business and the way we take care of ourselves on the fireground and at our stations. It starts with the realization that cancer is an epidemic that is currently decimating our profession.

Fortunately, there are specific actions that individuals and departments can take to protect themselves. As the realization of the magnitude of firefighter cancer is becoming more and more evident, the International Association of Fire Chiefs’ Volunteer and Combination Officers Section and the National Volunteer Fire Council, along with the Fire Service Occupational Cancer Alliance, Firefighter Cancer Support Network, with support from California Casualty, developed the 11 Best Practices for Preventing Firefighter Cancer. This report is an expansion of these best practices in order to provide specific guidance on how to adopt these actions into the everyday culture of fire departments.

11 Actions to Mitigate the Risk of Cancer

  1. Full protective equipment (PPE) must be worn throughout the entire incident, including SCBA during salvage and overhaul.
  2. A second hood should be provided to all entry-certified personnel in the department.
  3. Following exit from the IDLH, and while still on air, you should begin immediate gross decon of PPE using soap water and a brush, if weather conditions allow. PPE should then be placed into a sealed plastic bag and placed in an exterior compartment of the rig, or if responding in POVs, placed in a large storage tote, thus keeping the off-gassing PPE away from passengers and self.
  4. After completion of gross decon procedures as discussed above, and while still on scene, the exposed areas of the body (neck, face, arms and hands) should be wiped off immediately using wipes, which must be carried on all apparatus. Use the wipes to remove as much soot as possible from head, neck, jaw, throat, underarms and hands immediately.
  5. Change your clothes and wash them after exposure to products of combustion or other contaminants. Do this as soon as possible and/or isolate in a trash bag until washing is available.
  6. Shower as soon as possible after being exposed to products of combustion or other contaminants. “Shower within the Hour”
  7. PPE, especially turnout pants, must be prohibited in areas outside the apparatus floor (i.e. kitchen, sleeping areas, etc.) and never in the household.
  8. Wipes, or soap and water, should also be used to decontaminate and clean apparatus seats, SCBA and interior crew area regularly, especially after incidents where personnel were exposed to products of combustion.
  9. Get an annual physical, as early detection is the key to survival. The NVFC outlines several options at “A Healthcare Provider’s Guide to Firefighter Physicals” can be downloaded from
  10. Tobacco products of any variety, including dip and e-cigarettes should never be used at anytime on or off duty.
  11. Fully document ALL fire or chemical exposures on incident reports and personal exposure reports.

Download the full report (pdf)

Published by International Association of Fire Chiefs (IAFC) and National Volunteer Fire Council (NVFC)

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Memorial Grant Program for First Responders

man and child silhouette

The Government of Canada established the Memorial Grant Program for First Responders to recognize their service and sacrifice in keeping Canadians safe. Through the Memorial Grant Program, families of first responders who die as a result of their duties will receive a one-time lump sum, tax-free direct maximum payment of $300,000.

What are the eligibility criteria for the Memorial Grant?

  • The date of death must be on or after April 1, 2018.
  • The deceased first responder must have been employed or formally engaged to carry out the duties of a police officer, firefighter or a paramedic. This includes all volunteers, auxiliary and reservists.
  • The death of the first responder must have resulted from one of the following:
    • A fatal injury while actively engaged in the duties of a first responder in Canada;
    • An occupational illness primarily resulting from employment as a first responder; or
    • A psychological impairment or occupational stress injury (e.g., PTSI) resulting in suicide.
  • The deceased first responder must have resided in a province or territory that has signed a Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) with the Government of Canada
    • The families of first responders who worked for an Indigenous emergency service are eligible, regardless of whether the province or territory has signed an MOA or not

How do families apply for the Memorial Grant?

Public Safety Canada is the process of contracting with a company to assess applications for the Memorial Grant Program.

In the meantime, surviving family members of a fallen first responder can ask Public Safety Canada to notify them when the chosen company is in place and ready to accept applications. Survivors can email contact information to Public Safety Canada using

What types of information or documents will families need to submit as part of the application?

The Memorial Grant Program is being tailored to recognize and respond to the needs of grieving families with an emphasis on a sensitive, client-service approach. Once selected, the chosen company will help guide applicants through the process, and identify all necessary documentation.

While individual circumstances may vary, most applications will require:

  • An application form indicating the identity of the first responder, the identity of the applicant, and the relationship between them
  • An attestation from the employer organization confirming the duties of the first responder
  • Any medical records or reports necessary to confirm the injury/illness and causes of death of the first responder
  • A certified copy of the death certificate
  • Any other documents to support the application as may be necessary

Why is there a requirement for a Memorandum of Agreement?

The Government of Canada wants to make sure that families of fallen first responders get the full $300,000 without reductions or offsets from other sources. The MOAs seek a common understanding of the intent of the Memorial Grant, and set out the framework for collaboration with the provinces and territories to facilitate its implementation.

Meetings with provinces and territories are currently underway, and a list of signed agreements will be published online.


Where can families find more information about the Memorial Grant?

Additional information about the Memorial Grant Program, including the Terms and Conditions, can be found at:

Should you have any additional questions, not relating to eligibility, please feel free to contact Service Canada toll free at 1-800-622-6232 or TTY at 1-800-926-9105.


“Your government and your country can’t ever thank you enough for what you do in your professional lives, but we hope that you will see the new Memorial Grant as a reflection of respect and appreciation for the bravery, the service, and the sacrifice of all public safety officers.”

The Honourable Ralph Goodale, Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness

– Remarks for the Canadian Police Association Legislative Meeting, April 16, 2018


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6 Characteristics to Recruit for in Volunteer Firefighters

tired firefighters

When it comes to personnel, volunteer fire departments are no different than corporations or nonprofit groups. They all need people in the boat rowing toward the same agreed upon destination. And while that rowing requires hard skills, like a strong back, it also requires soft skills — such as the ability to work as a team. In firefighting, the hard skills are critical for a successful fireground or rescue operation.

Whether it’s rolling a dash or repacking a hose bed, hard skills are essential. The soft skills also play a part in these successes, and just as importantly, they are critical for running a successful volunteer fire department — that is, everything that happens in between the tones.

Hard skills can be taught. With practice and guidance, people can learn to ladder a building, run a pumper, set up a dump tank and vent a roof much the same as they can learn to code software or manage a business’ tax obligation. The soft skills, how we approach others, are often learned as children. Volunteer fire departments may not be able to teach something like ethics the way they can teach removing a car door, but department leaders can set expectations and live by example to promote those soft skills.

While not an easy task, it is important to approach recruiting and hiring volunteer firefighters with those soft skills front of mind. It will make running emergency scenes and the department much easier with people on board all willing to row in the same direction at the same time.

Here’s a look at the six top characteristics, soft and hard, to look for when recruiting volunteer firefighters.

1. Integrity and Ethics

This may be the most important and the hardest to test for. There are some low-cost test options that volunteer chiefs can include in their application processes to help weed out those who don’t adhere to a high standard of professional and personal ethics. Background checks are also a must to determine if the individual has a pattern of bad behavior. Of course, the first step is to ensure you have a sound application and interview process that includes background checks.

But ethics is more than an individual thing, it’s cultural. Volunteer fire department leaders can steer the culture by setting clear expectations for its members’ ethical behavior — and following through when those expectations are not met. They also need to set an unwavering example for department ethics. This needs to be conveyed from the grand scale — don’t steal items from a house fire — to the everyday behaviors — if there’s an honor system coffee fund, pony up every time you take a cup, without exception.

2. Desire to Serve

Fighting fire is exciting and there’s no denying it. But even the men and women on the Chicago Fire Department don’t see as much action as do the actors on “Chicago Fire.” And for volunteers running a few hundred calls per year, if that, there’s not a lot to satisfy the adrenaline junkie’s cravings. Most of our calls involve helping Mrs. Smith off the floor and into her chair, dumping oil dry at fender-benders, telling someone their CO alarm is going off because it’s 15 years old, and picking Mrs. Smith up off the floor, again.

To run calls like that, and to do it with the same care and professionalism as a smoke-showing call, takes a person who wants to help others. If helping others is not your potential recruits’ main driver, they will quickly grow bored and quit — or worse, grow disgruntled and stay.

Be upfront during the interview process about the less-than-exciting aspects of volunteer firefighting. And look for clues in your applicant’s past that indicates a desire to help. Ask to see what other groups, causes or events they’ve donated time and energy to. Those other civic groups are often fertile recruiting grounds for volunteer firefighters.

3. Respectfulness

As Chief Alan Brunacini often said, “Be nice.” That’s easy enough when you are helping someone you know, like or who looks or acts like you. But Mrs. Smith, who only seems to fall at 3 a.m. every morning, can be difficult. She may be a retired school teacher who busted your chops in the second grade, someone whose yard sported a political sign for “that” candidate, or someone who calls the council to gripe about you tracking on her carpet at 3 a.m. Yet, you have to be nice to her—she’s the customer. They all are.

It takes a high level of emotional maturity to set aside prejudices and personal pet peeves to treat everyone who calls for help with courtesy, respect and kindness. It is equally important that the new volunteer can treat fellow firefighters with courtesy, respect and kindness. Check with past and current employers to see how your applicant interacts with coworkers and customers.

4. Willingness to Learn

Technology is now advancing faster than the human brain can adapt to it. There are few places to hide from change, and the volunteer fire department is not one of them. Even if the department never gets all the latest whiz-bang gizmos, there are constant changes to firefighter training methods, to our understanding of fire behavior and to the new threats we face. A firefighter stuck in the past and unwilling to learn new tricks is a danger to himself and the crew.

As is true in the private sector, volunteer fire departments will be more successful when their members are life-long learners. Seek out candidates who exhibit intellectual curiosity. Ask interview questions like: “Tell about something you recently learned” and “What do you hope to be good at in the next two or three years?”

5. Physical Fitness

Physical strength and endurance may seem like a purely hard skill, but it’s not. Some individuals are naturally stronger than others. However, a lifestyle commitment to healthy eating, exercise and general good life habits speak to a person’s drive and ability to delay instant gratification for long-term achievements.

A physical aptitude test during the interview process is a good starting point. It not only gives you a baseline measure of how fit the potential members are, it also conveys the importance your volunteer department places on physical wellbeing.

6. Aptitude

A candidate with firefighting or EMS certifications and experience can be ideal. It’s why two hatters make such great additions to volunteer departments. But most candidates won’t show up with a stack of certs in hand. Question them in the interviews about their talents, hobbies, jobs and skills. Mechanical, carpentry and electrical skills are at a premium and help both on scene and in the apparatus bay.

But don’t overlook the other skills that can help your department. If your applicants are skilled accountants, publicists, computer technicians or a host of other professions, consider how those talents can be plugged in to fill your department’s needs or untapped opportunities. For many departments, running the department and raising money occupy more time than do emergency response. A good fire academy and ongoing training program will teach emergency-scene skills. But those other skills applicants bring to the table can be a terrific asset.


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 Storage and Maintenance of Struts & Straps

In order to complete a successful rescue, all equipment must be in working order. Along with struts, ratchet straps play an important role in vehicle stabilization and that’s why they are included in every Res-Q-Jack kit purchase. Below are a few tips on making sure your struts and straps are in good working condition. The time to find out they are in need of replacement isn’t on scene.


  1. Store jack in fully collapsed position.
  2. Keep jack in a dry environment. Exposure to too much moisture may result in rust and/or decreased effectiveness of straps.
  3. Beware of strap storage environment. Nylon and polyester have adverse affects when in prolonged exposure to ultraviolet light, when exposed to sunlight or arc welding, and when temperatures are above 200° F.



  1. Periodically oil crank handle lightly at each side of the jack body. Remove jack cap and grease internal gearing as needed (Chevron Black Pearl grease or equivalent is recommended).
  2. A light lubricant should be applied with a rag to outside of inner tube, being careful not to excessively lubricate. Remove any excess grease or oil. To keep the extensions sliding smoothly, this process is beneficial for all extension tubings and the inner tubing of all X-Strut® series struts.
  3. Inspect and clean all components of strut following each use. Visually inspect welds, hardware, retaining pins, straps, chains, hooks, and other parts. Look for cracks, dents, and other small imperfections. Replace torn, frayed, worn, broken, bent, or missing parts before use. See below for some examples of strap damage.
  4. Contact Res-Q-Jack at 1-800-466-9626 for refurbishing or component replacement requests, or if you have any questions about the safety of your strut.


Shown in extreme conditions below, straps should be removed from service and replaced if any signs of damage are visible.


  • Cuts, holes, surface abrasion, crushed areas, or any separation of load-carry stitch pattern
  • Burns or chemical damage
  • Hardware, fittings, or tensioning devices which are broken, bent, twisted, cracked, or have nicks and gouges
  • Knotted webbing or damaged loop ends
  • Splices or other makeshift repairs



By: Cris Pasto

Originally published at:

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Best-in-Class Ascendant 100’ Aerial Tower Unveiled at Fire Department Instructors Conference

Pierce Manufacturing introduces a new, uncompromising addition to the Pierce® Ascendant® Class of Aerials at the Fire Department Instructors Conference (FDIC) in Indianapolis, Ind. The Ascendant 100-foot Heavy-Duty Aerial Tower includes best in class features with superior maneuverability, drivability, operator functionality, and serviceability.

APPLETON, Wis. (April 26, 2018) – Pierce Manufacturing Inc., an Oshkosh Corporation (NYSE:OSK) company, today introduced a new, uncompromising addition to the Pierce® Ascendant® Class of Aerials at the Fire Department Instructors Conference (FDIC) in Indianapolis, Ind. The all-new Ascendant 100’ Aerial Tower includes best in class features including superior maneuverability, drivability, operator functionality, and serviceability. Answering the demand for the innovative Ascendant ladder to be available on additional configurations, the 100’ Aerial Tower offers heavy-duty capabilities and the highest level of dependability.

Reaching heights of 100′ vertically and 93′ horizontally, the Ascendant 100′ Aerial Tower packages a 5-section heavy-duty steel tower onto a vehicle with a low overall ride height of only 10’8″ and length of only 41’ 3”. Its 160″ rear overhang minimizes tail-swing offering superior maneuverability and even greater visibility than that of a rear-mounted tower.

“We listened to our customers’ feedback and incorporated elements that exceed expectations with the innovative features of the new Ascendant 100’ Aerial Tower,” said Lisa Barwick, director of business development, Pierce Manufacturing. “Exceptional horizontal and vertical reach capabilities, combined with superior maneuverability, drivability, operability, and serviceability functions, address firefighters’ essential aerial apparatus needs.”

This new aerial tower outperforms with a 1,000 lb tip load capacity, up to a 20-degree below grade operation, and a below grade 50-degree scrub area. All of this is accomplished with the truck at a mere 20′ set-back from the building. Its integrated ground pads eliminate time spent throwing ground pads, so setup is streamlined and faster than any other aerial on the market. The apparatus will be ready for aerial operations in under 30 seconds.

“Last year we introduced a class of aerials that set a new benchmark for performance in the industry, and we didn’t stop at taking the platform options and apparatus features a step further,” said Barwick. “The all-new Ascendant 100’ Aerial Tower is ideal for customers in the market for a mid- or rear-mounted platform and is unlike any other aerial apparatus available.”

The Ascendant 100′ Aerial Tower is available on a variety of custom chassis and body styles to meet fire departments’ needs. Additionally, the apparatus can be configured with a rear axle rating as low as 48,000 lbs. providing all of the benefits of a lighter weight vehicle such as shorter stopping distances and better performance from the chassis drivetrain. For a comprehensive review of the Pierce Ascendant Class of aerials, visit for complete specs, video and images.

Posted: Apr 26, 2018 10:28:06 AM by Pierce Mfg.

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Equipment Maintenance for Thermal Imagers

By Manfred Kihn
Regional Sales Manager – Emergency Responders (Canada), Thermal Imaging Trainer

Rechargeable batteries have a service life so it is very important that you replace these batteries on a schedule. Regular exercise will extend the life of the battery, but eventually they will need to be replaced. Be proactive and establish a plan for replacement.

battery pack

Based on your FD’s activity level, determine roughly how long a battery should last. Add that time to the date you placed the battery in service and write the future month and year on the battery. As part of your regular equipment checks, members can check the “expiration date.” The month before expiration, contact your Bullard TI distributor to order the new battery.

For example, a moderately busy fire department purchased an LDX and T4X in March 2018 (3-18). The department determines an 18-month replacement schedule is appropriate for them, and therefore writes “Sept 2019 (9-19)” on it. In August 2019, the department will contact its Bullard distributor to order the replacement battery. This approach is simple, obvious and part of a system, which makes it unlikely to fall through the cracks.

Based on average use by your department, determine how long a battery will normally last. Keep track of battery maintenance by identifying each battery with a “1 or 2” or “A or B” and once a month fully deplete the battery in the imager down to RED and replace it with the spare battery in the charger. This basic maintenance will help exercise the NiMH cells and extend their life cycle.

Another option is utilizing a PowerUp Charger, Analyzer, Conditioner which keeps your TI batteries at peak performance in conjunction with a regular inspection and maintenance process.

When it comes to care and maintenance, a thermal imager is not much different from a vehicle. You can ignore the simple things over time and pay for them several times over when there is a major failure. A few minutes, and few dollars, spent over time will help your department avoid large future expenses. For your TI to help you in a fire, you need to help it in the fire station. Give your TI a little regular care to keep batteries charged!

Also see: Powerhouse Charging Station which conveniently stores and charges your T3 or T4 Thermal Imager and a spare battery.

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MAXIMETAL Awarded $32M Fire Truck Contract by City of Montreal

man sitting on bumper of fire truck

St-Georges, Quebec, February 28th, 2018 – Canadian company MAXIMETAL has been awarded a 5-year contract for $ 32.1M to build 35 pumper trucks for the City of Montreal Fire Department.  This is one of the largest contracts in the company’s history, and is the first major contract win since the company formalized its product partnership with US based fire apparatus manufacturer, Pierce Manufacturing Inc.

“This is exactly the kind of opportunity we envisioned when we partnered with Pierce. To be able to respond to Canadian fire departments with world-renowned, high-quality products, custom-built right here in Canada.” said Danny Dufour, the company’s president.

In 2015, Pierce Manufacturing Inc. and MAXIMETAL began a strategic product partnership to better serve the Canadian market.  Pierce® sells the Saber® custom chassis’ to MAXIMETAL who, in turn, mounts its own firefighting body configurations onto the chassis. The completed MaxiSaber apparatus are marketed across Canada through the network of Pierce dealers on behalf of MAXIMETAL.

“The MaxiSaber product has really taken off in the past year,” said Chris Sapienza, MAXIMETAL’s director of business development.  “We have delivered a dozen trucks into the Maritimes, Quebec and Ontario so far, and the project list is growing quickly thanks to the Canadian Pierce dealer network.  We anticipate exciting times ahead for our team.”

“The Pierce team is honored to work alongside MAXIMETAL by providing our Pierce custom chassis to fulfill a long-term contract with the City of Montreal Fire Department,” said Jim Johnson, president of Pierce Manufacturing. “This partnership is truly a testament to the level of commitment Pierce, MAXIMETAL, and our Canadian dealers maintain to provide the highest level of support for our customers.”

Production of the first 7 chassis will begin immediately in Pierce’s US plant, and the first deliveries to Montreal are anticipated for late 2018, with the last trucks expected to leave the factory sometime in late 2022.


Founded in 1983, MAXIMETAL, INC. is based in Saint-Georges just an hour south of Quebec City. MAXIMETAL is a dynamic, innovative Canadian company with 35 years of experience designing and manufacturing optimized intervention vehicles.   Our core specialty lies in two product families: MAXI Fire trucks and MAXI Utility trucks. The company holds ISO9001:2008 certification and is dedicated to providing fire departments and utility customers with quality built, custom-outfitted apparatus engineered to the highest standards.  To learn more about MAXIMETAL, visit

About Pierce Manufacturing

Pierce Manufacturing Inc., an Oshkosh Corporation [NYSE: OSK] company, is the leading North American manufacturer of custom fire apparatus. Products include custom and commercial pumpers, aerials, rescue trucks, wildland trucks, mini-pumpers, elliptical tankers, and homeland security apparatus. In addition, Pierce designs its own foam systems and was the first company to introduce frontal airbags and the Side Roll Protection system to fire apparatus. To learn more about Pierce, visit

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NFPA announces education materials for Canadian fire services

NFPA site

Canadian versions of National Fire Prevention Association’s public education resources and materials include metric measurements, Canadian spellings, Canadian data, and French Canadian translations (when available).

Visit the NFPA website to see what’s available.

If you would like Canadian versions of particular resources, please contact NFPA public education representative Laura King.

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Six Things Every Volunteer Firefighter Must do to Reduce Their Cancer Risk

firefighter with SCBA

A burning structure won’t alter its behavior because the crew that shows up is volunteer or career – or some hybrid of both. Fire follows its own rules. That’s one reason you’ll often hear volunteers say “we fight the same fire with the same training as our career brothers and sisters.”

And while that’s true, there are some unavoidable differences. Career firefighters generally have more time, resources and experience than volunteer firefighters. That means they train more often, use better training and firefighting equipment and have more hands-on experience.

Much the same can be said about cancer. As one of the leading causes of firefighter deaths,  cancer doesn’t care  if the firefighter  hails from a career or volunteer fire department. But as with fighting fire, there are some undeniable differences between volunteer and career firefighters when it comes to keeping cancer at bay. Again, volunteers often lack the appropriate resources to follow the cancer prevention best practices as a whole. For example, having a second set of PPE and having laundering machines designed to clean PPE are things many volunteer departments simply cannot afford.

One of the nation’s leading firefighter safety advocates, Chief Billy Goldfeder is an international director for the International Association of Fire Chiefs’ Safety, Health and Survival Section, and a former volunteer firefighter. He’s most known for and its email newsletter the “Secret List.” He’s also not one to suffer fools or mince words when it comes to firefighter safety. Firefighters often play the volunteer card as an excuse for not reducing their cancer risk, he says. “It’s an invalid excuse. It’s not a volunteer issue, it’s a firefighter issue.”

Yet, volunteer firefighters can take steps to greatly reduce cancer risk despite some of the unique challenges faced in the volunteer segment. As a volunteer firefighter, here are six things you can start doing immediately to better protect your health.

But first, let’s take a quick look at what cancer is. Cancer is basically a malfunction in how your cells operate. Normally, cells grow old and die, then new cells are created to replace those. Cancerous cells don’t die off as they should and they divide and grow new unneeded cells; they can also convince normal cells to divert blood and oxygen to help cancer cells grow and hide from our immune system. That  rogue cell growth is the result of changes to our very genetic make-up.

These genetic changes are often sparked by exposure to toxic materials known as carcinogens. And as we’re often reminded, firefighters are about two times more likely to get certain types of cancer than the general population. And many believe that higher risk is due to the toxic airborne soup firefighters are exposed to on every working fire.

So, here are six ways experts say you can limit your exposure risk to cancer while still serving your community as a volunteer firefighter.

  1. Wear your gear

If you are a firefighter, this responsibility begins and ends with you. Wear all your protective gear and SCBA on any call where toxins  could be present. This includes structure fires, vehicle fires and other fires like trash container fires. It is also just as important that you wear all your protective gear and SCBA during overhaul operations.  If you are an officer, make sure everyone on scene is wearing their gear properly. There is no excuse for not doing this; it is your first and best line of defense. As Chief Goldfeder says, “Gone are the days of excuses — there are too many firefighters tragically rotting away from cancer. All professions wear their gear — pro football, military, etc. — so stop the b.s. and wear it.”

  1. Clean your gear

Growing evidence shows that the contaminants that get on a firefighter’s  PPE at a fire don’t necessarily stay there. These microscopic, cancer-causing materials fall off and cling to other surfaces and become airborne through off-gassing. As scientists wrestle with trying to figure out how clean firefighter PPE actually is after washing, most experts agree the best practice is a two-step cleaning process.

First, it is important to conduct  a gross decontamination on scene after the fire. That means getting as much of the big particles off as possible. Two firefighters can easily clean one another — while still on SCBA air — with a simple dry brush followed by a wet, soapy brush and a hose down. Brushes, mild detergent and a bucket can easily be stored on the first-due truck. And some departments have gone as far as connecting a small garden hose to the pump panel to draw warm water for this on-scene scrub down.

Second, when back at the station, separate and wash the PPE immediately. This should include  hoods, gloves, helmets, SCBA and any hoses or tools that were used. Gloves and hoods are especially notorious for harboring cancer-causing particles. And while many volunteer departments cannot afford a high-end PPE washer/extractor and drying cabinet, NFPA’s Ken Willette said in a recent webinar on firefighter cancer that regular washing machines, like those used at home, are a workable solution until funds can be raised for proper cleaning equipment.

However, you should never wash your gear at home; it can leave contaminants in your home washing machine — and those contaminants will spread to your family’s clothing. Likewise, avoid taking your PPE home or in your personal vehicle. If you must carry your gear, Willette urges you to keep it in a sealed plastic bin. That will prevent much of the contaminants from traveling from your gear to your vehicle.

Don’t needlessly expose yourself or your family to cancer by ignoring these simple cleaning steps.

  1. Clean your body and your house

Be sure to wash the clothes you wear under your PPE and shower as soon as possible after a fire. PPE does a good job of keeping contaminants off you as a firefighter, but small particles can still get on your skin.

It’s also critical to keep the firehouse clean. Diesel exhaust is a known carcinogen; exhaust removal systems are a must for every department. If you don’t have such a system or it’s an older model, it is recommended to only run your trucks outside. Keep any offices, dayrooms, kitchens and other common gathering spaces sealed off from the apparatus bay. Not only will this help keep the diesel particles out, it will also help keep  the contaminants from your PPE from reaching those rooms — yes, that means you cannot wear your turnout gear in those areas.

And don’t forget the truck. When riding back to the station after a call, all of those contaminants  embedded in your PPE  are now collecting in the inside of the  truck. Make sure to give the interior a good scrub down after every fire.

  1. See your doctor

Even if you’ve never been sick a day in your life, go to the doctor once a year for a full physical examination. Early detection is key to surviving cancer. If you wait until symptoms are bad enough to “warrant an appointment,” it may be too late. “No one likes going to the doctor,” Chief Goldfeder says. “But you’re a firefighter, so show some of that so-called bravery of yours and make the appointment.”

Remember to tell your doctor on each visit that you are a volunteer firefighter and have an elevated risk for cancer. The International Association of Fire Chiefs published a guide to help medical professionals better understand the inherent health risks of fighting fire.

You can get a copy of the guide here (

And consider keeping a digital diary of your fires and the exposure incidents; it’s another way you can work with your primary-care doctor to track your risk factors. It will also come in handy if you are diagnosed with  cancer and need to prove that it is job related.

  1. Change your lifestyle

If you use tobacco products, now is the time to stop.  If you can’t quit on your own, find the resources to help. Being a firefighter already increases your risk of cancer; smoking or dipping further compounds that risk. If firefighting is driving down a dark road at night, smoking is cutting off the headlines; your chances of hitting something are much higher.

“A 5-foot, 5-inch firefighter weighing 350 pounds had a heart attack. How could that happen?” Chief Goldfeder asks. “A 5-foot, 5-inch firefighter weighing 350 pounds, that’s how. We are in physically exhausting work like an athlete, but in athletics there are practices, warm up, times out, etc. You do get those. So, how fit do you want the firefighters to be that may have to rescue a family member of yours? There’s your answer.”

Take a hard and honest inventory of other risk factors in your life such as unprotected sunlight exposure, diet, excessive weight and alcohol use. Regular exercise, proper sleep and a diet low in saturated fats, simple carbohydrates (white flour products) and refined sugar and high in vegetables, fruits, and high-quality fats will make your body more resistant to several diseases, including cancer. It also will help you better fight off cancer in the event you are diagnosed. Most importantly, it will help you to be a better firefighter.

  1. Preach it

Remember when you were a kid and your friends convinced you to do something stupid — jump off the roof or throw eggs at your neighbor’s house? Peer pressure worked then and it can work for you now. Encourage your fellow firefighters to accept the challenge when it comes to proactively taking steps to help reduce their risk of cancer.

Find cancer-prevention religion and evangelize it among your fellow volunteer firefighters. Follow best practices through deed and word. That means taking care of yourself and encouraging and supporting others to do the same. Once cancer prevention practices have reached a critical mass in your department, it becomes part of your culture — those who don’t follow those practices will be the outliers and peer-pressured into getting in line with the group’s ideals.

But as Chief Goldfeder cautions, you’ve got to first walk the talk. “Make sure that if you’re going to preach it, you are setting an example. Otherwise start at #1 above. Again. Then go to #6.”


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