Save a volunteer fire fighter’s life

                                                                                                                                                                            Photo submitted
By Shari Harris

The Licking Rural Volunteer Fire Department needs your help. This year, all of their firefighting gear will be considered out of service by the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) and the department’s insurance company. This gear has a shelf life of 10 years, after which it no longer protects the firefighter. If a firefighter is injured in a fire as a result of expired equipment, the liability belongs to supervisors and the department. Therefore, firefighters in expired gear are limited to fighting fires from the outside only.
The total cost of outfitting a firefighter, as reported by Mike Drozdo of the Licking Rural Volunteer Fire Department, is $11,130. This includes: turnout jacket $1500, turnout pants $1300, gloves $65, Nomex hood $35, helmet $265, boots $365, SCBA (air) $5200, flashlight $50, pager $500 and radio $1850. This is only one set of gear and larger departments are now striving to provide all of their firefighters with a second set of gear so they can have one set clean at all times. Locally, the Licking Fire Department is unable to afford a single set per firefighter.
With an estimated due collection rate of about 30 percent, the already strapped department is falling further behind. Fundraisers and grants have helped them remain operational. Grants are not always available, and currently the department is asking for the community’s help to obtain the gear that protects them so they can protect the community. Even if 100 percent of dues were paid, the department would still have to fundraise to replace worn-out equipment and gear.
Gear offers more protection to the firefighter than it once did. According to the NFPA, the total number of on-duty firefighter fatalities has decreased from 174 in 1978 to 64 in 2018. But the off-duty deaths due to cancer and heart disease may be on the rise.
“The chemicals firefighters are exposed to can be inhaled, can stick to gear and can sink in through the skin. We know exposure to these chemicals can increase risk for cardiovascular disease — both morbidity and mortality. We also know there are several cancers that happen at higher rates among firefighters and are likely related to chemical exposures,” says Sara Jahnke in her article, “Firefighting research looks at overhaul risk.” 
Jahnke explains that gear is limited in its ability to prevent skin exposure. Exposure can occur well after the incident when skin contacts the contaminated gear. Smoke particulates and vapors can penetrate some of the gear to reach the skin also. The risk of exposure after-the-fact has led to the movement to procure second sets of gear in larger departments.
Many people remember firefighters who had no special gear to fight fires. Carla Williams warns about the new dangers that face firefighters due to the number of synthetic materials found in homes today. (“Smoked Out: Are Firefighters in More Danger than Ever Before?”)
Hydrogen cyanide is a toxic gas that Firefighter Nation estimates is up to 35 percent more dangerous than carbon monoxide. It is created when synthetic materials such as polyurethane and nylon burn, and can be found in common household items such as furniture, insulation, carpets, appliances, plastics and clothing. Modern construction materials are much more synthetic today than in the day of the firefighter with no gear.
How can you help? Make sure your dues are paid and if you want to “gift” dues for someone in need, that is acceptable also. Support the fundraisers your department holds. The next one in Licking is the annual Chili Supper at the Fox Fire Station on Saturday, March 7, from 3 to 7 p.m. Proceeds from this will go towards a new fire truck. Additional donations can be made toward the purchase of new gear at that time. You can also watch for notifications in this paper or follow their Facebook page at Licking Rural Fire Department to stay up to date on their latest fundraisers.



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