Threat of Blood Cancers Reduced With FIIRE Grant

The OIFR Safety Committee, consisting of Safety Officer Bob Nutt, Volunteer Lt. Greg Sawyer, Capt. Don Swain and Chief Holly vanSchaick have been awarded a $25,000 grant for new firefighter bunker gear (also known as turnouts) through the Department of Labor and Industries Firefighter Injury Illness Reduction Program (FIIRE).

The FIIRE Pilot Program is a two-year program safety initiative for employers of professional firefighters to reduce the incidence of firefighter occupational injuries and illnesses, like cancers, through proactive risk management and implementation of best practices.

L&I partnered with representatives from the Washington Fire Chiefs (WFC) and the Washington State Council of Fire Fighters (WSCFF) to develop the Firefighter Injury and Illness Reduction (FIIRE) Pilot Program. OIFR elected to participate in the program and became eligible to apply for grant funding to purchase additional equipment and other gear.

This grant will be used to purchase a second set of gear for our interior firefighters to reduce exposure to fireground carcinogens, which can lead to blood and other cancers. A special washing machine called an extractor is required to clean contaminated gear. With only one extractor and 29 interior firefighters, career and volunteer combined, the wait times for cleaning gear after a fire can easily be over a week. This means that firefighters are responding to contaminated gear for multiple days or putting themselves out of service until their gear is clean. Gear can require an additional 1-2 days for dry time.

The second set of gear will reduce carcinogen exposure not only for the firefighters who have the second set but for everyone in the department. OIFR is grateful for the work of the Safety Committee in researching and ultimately obtaining this grant money for the safety of our responders.