Fire Service

FORT WAYNE FIREFIGHTER INJURED AT HOTEL FIRE

Firefighter Close Calls - Sat, 12/01/2018 - 18:21

Investigators are trying to determine the cause of an early-morning blaze that tore through the Travel Inn, leaving three people – including a firefighter – hurt.

Fort Wayne fire crews arrived at the hotel at 2712 Coliseum Blvd. W., about 1:10 a.m. Friday and found flames overwhelming a room, according to the fire department.

A man at the location escaped the room, but paramedics took him to a hospital in serious condition with burns on his back. A firefighter needed hospitalization for minor injuries as well, officials said.

Another guest at the lodge was taken to the hospital for smoke inhalation.

Firefighters said the blaze, which was under control in 20 minutes, caused heavy damage to the room and nearby rooms in the two-story building as well.

Categories: Fire Service, Safety

FOUR FIREFIGHTERS INJURED IN WRONG WAY CRASH IN CA

Firefighter Close Calls - Fri, 11/30/2018 - 09:04

One man died and four firefighters were sent to the hospital after a wrong way crash Friday night.

The accident happened just before 3 a.m. on the southbound I-5 near SR-94 causing several lanes to close according to CHP.

The firefighters involved in the wrong way accident were released from the hospital.

CHP officers are investigating the crash.

Categories: Fire Service, Safety

TANKER ROLLOVER IN NY STATE

Firefighter Close Calls - Fri, 11/30/2018 - 08:14

No one was hurt when a tanker headed to a barn fire in Burdett failed to negotiate a turn and rolled on its side Wednesday night.

Watch Video

According to the television station WENY, the fire truck owned by the Watkins Glen Fire Department was being operated by a 35 year veteran of the department.

Firefighters were headed to a barn fire with flames through the roof on Dolphsburg Road, Burdett, the television station reported. In addition to the driver, there were four other firefighters in the apparatus, the station reported.

The unit was on State Route 79 attempting to make turn onto County Road 9 when the apparatus went into a ditch and ended up on its side. The station also reported snow reduced visibility at the time of the crash.

WENY reported the occupants of the overturned tanker were helped out of the apparatus by members of the Montour Falls Fire Department and members of the Schuyler County Ambulance assessed all the firefighters and determined they were unharmed and released.

The cause of the crash is under investigation, the station reported.

As for the barn, filled with hay bales, was a complete loss as firefighters brought in an excavator to tear remnants that were still burning.

The cause of the barn fire is under investigation.   

Categories: Fire Service, Safety

4 FIREFIGHTERS INJURED WHEN CAR SLAMS RIG AT SCENE

Firefighter Close Calls - Thu, 11/29/2018 - 20:35

Four firefighters were injured Thursday morning when a car spun out and struck their fire engine while they were at the scene of a previous multi-vehicle crash, officials said.

According to the Ontario Fire Department, the second collision happened shortly before 10 a.m. on the 15 Freeway near the 10 Freeway interchange.

The injured firefighters were transported to a hospital with non-serious injuries.

The cause of the crash is under investigation by the California Highway Patrol.

Categories: Fire Service, Safety

FIREFIGHTER SHOCKED, TRANSPORTED AT CA FIRE

Firefighter Close Calls - Thu, 11/29/2018 - 20:33

A San Bernardino County firefighter was taken to a hospital after he suffered an electric shock while battling a house fire in San Bernardino Thursday morning, officials said.

The firefighter suffered minor injuries and was taken to Arrowhead Regional Medical Center as a precaution, said Eric Sherwin, a Fire Department spokesman.

Firefighters were called to the 800 block of West Campus Way for a structure fire just after 10:30 a.m. After the fire was brought under control, crews realized the firefighter had come in contact with an electrical line. Officers were investigating whether the building was a possible marijuana-grow house, police said.

Categories: Fire Service, Safety

FIREFIGHTER FROM INDIA KILLED IN THE LINE OF DUTY – COMMERCIAL FIRE & EXPLOSION

Firefighter Close Calls - Thu, 11/29/2018 - 19:43

We regret to pass on that a Firefighter was killed in the Line of Duty and another Firefighter received burn injuries while trying to fight a restaurant fire in India earlier today.

The area fire brigade got a call around 0100 hours for a fire at the restaurant in an area called Kalyan township, in the Aadharwadi fire station response area, who turned out with 6 Firefighters.

While they were operating, an explosion took place at the restaurant, killing Firefighter Amle (age 57) immediately. Another Firefighter received serious burn injuries in the mishap and was admitted to a nearby hospital.

The other Firefighters were able to bring the fire under control. Our condolences to all those affected. Rest In Peace.

Categories: Fire Service, Safety

PGFD union demands release of internal report into firefighter’s shooting death

Statter 911 - Thu, 11/29/2018 - 07:20

PGFD chief says only summary will be released - Union calls report handling 'shameful'

The post PGFD union demands release of internal report into firefighter’s shooting death appeared first on Statter911.

Categories: Fire Service

DC’s former mayor wants hearing about fire department fleet he helped destroy

Statter 911 - Wed, 11/28/2018 - 12:18

Vincent Gray was more interested in license plates & logos than working fire trucks

The post DC’s former mayor wants hearing about fire department fleet he helped destroy appeared first on Statter911.

Categories: Fire Service

ELABORATE FIRE STATION BREAK IN – CANADA

Firefighter Close Calls - Tue, 11/27/2018 - 21:25

An elaborate break has occurred at the Six Nations Fire & Emergency Services Fire Station #3 (Ontario, Canada) with thieves cutting through a security fence, breaking through a double cinderblock concrete wall located on the rear of the fire station and they bypassed the security system.

Once inside, the thieves stole all of the equipment from 2 fire apparatus and attempted to steal the fire trucks damaging them significantly in the process.

Early estimates are that $200,000+ dollars of damage and theft has occurred as a result.

Until such time that they can get the station and trucks repaired and the highly specialized equipment replaced, they will not be able to reopen and respond from Fire Station #3, causing significant delay to that area.

CAN YOU HELP?

If you seen, heard or know anything (such as perhaps, seeing used fire equipment being posted for sale on social media)  please notify the Six Nations Police at 519 445 2811.

Although they appreciate the kind offers to fundraise or create a go fund me to assist us with replacing equipment they assure everyone that they will be able to independently recover from this incident.

STUFF A FIRE TRUCK FOR KIDS:

If you would like to make a donation for the previously planned Stuff a Fire Truck Xmas Toy Drive this Saturday from 10am-3pm – (which has been impacted by the theft) please contact Six Nations Fire at:

http://www.sixnations.ca/FireDept.htm

Categories: Fire Service, Safety

DALLAS FIREFIGHTERS OK AFTER MAYDAY

Firefighter Close Calls - Tue, 11/27/2018 - 21:09

A fire broke out Tuesday morning at a condo building in far northeast Dallas, leading to multiple evacuations and injuring three firefighters who were briefly trapped.

The fire started around 9:15 a.m. at the Cambridge Park Condominiums in the 11400 block of Audelia Road, Dallas Fire-Rescue spokesman Jason Evans said.

Heavy smoke poured from the three-story building, and flames shot through the roof, officials said. It took about 100 firefighters four hours to extinguish the four-alarm blaze.

 

Yolando Ocampo had no idea there was a fire and just escaped unscathed, her face caked in soot from the smoke.

“When I opened the door, it was black,”  she told KDFW-TV (Fox 4). “I was super scared. I’m still, like, trembling.”

At one point, a “mayday” call went out because three firefighters found themselves trapped on the second floor after a floor collapsed. They were rescued and evaluated by medical personnel, Evans said.

Their injuries were not life-threatening, and they were “expected to be okay,” he added. Two of the three were discharged from the hospital Tuesday afternoon, while the third remained for observation.

Categories: Fire Service, Safety

Early video & radio traffic from FDNY at Bronx 4th alarm

Statter 911 - Tue, 11/27/2018 - 15:40

Fire on arrival in multiple homes on Hull Avenue

The post Early video & radio traffic from FDNY at Bronx 4th alarm appeared first on Statter911.

Categories: Fire Service

Indiana deputy fire chief reelected despite losing certifications due to child porn

Statter 911 - Tue, 11/27/2018 - 10:12

Sellersburg's John Cline has held position since three years after his 2001 conviction

The post Indiana deputy fire chief reelected despite losing certifications due to child porn appeared first on Statter911.

Categories: Fire Service

3 FIREFIGHTERS INJURED AT EVANSTON BOX ALARM

Firefighter Close Calls - Mon, 11/26/2018 - 21:38

Three firefighters were injured battling a house fire Monday morning in north suburban Evanston.

Fire crews responded about 6:50 a.m. to the 1100 block of South Boulevard and encountered heavy smoke and “moderate fire conditions” before entering the single-family home, according to the Evanston Fire Department.

After getting an assist from other fire departments, the blaze was struck out in about 30 minutes. Three firefighters suffered minor injuries, but it was unclear whether they were from Evanston or another municipality, the fire department said.

The fire was caused by candles that were being used as Christmas decorations, the fire department said.

Categories: Fire Service, Safety

2 FIREFIGHTERS INJURED AT IOWA BLAZE

Firefighter Close Calls - Mon, 11/26/2018 - 20:40

Two firefighters have been injured battling a house blaze in Des Moines.

Firetrucks were dispatched to the house around 5:30 a.m. Saturday. Fire Lt. Chris Clement says the injuries occurred when one firefighter fell through a weakened floor into the house basement, landing atop another firefighter.

Both were taken to a hospital and were released after treatment. Their names haven’t been released.

The fire cause is being investigated.

Categories: Fire Service, Safety

‘It’s not a level playing field’: Fire departments face disparities with funding cancer prevention

Firefighter Close Calls - Mon, 11/26/2018 - 13:04
PUBLISHED: November 26, 2018 A multi-part series

Line of duty: Firefighters and cancer

Camp Jackson volunteer firefighters train at an abandoned home in Centreville. The department has around 32 firefighters who range in age from 18 to 65.

At the Lincolnshire-Riverwoods Fire Protection District, the recent death of 43-year-old Lt. James Carney from cancer reinforced the department’s reasons for investing in two special detox saunas, the use of cancer-sniffing dogs and a second set of gear for each of its 39 firefighters.

Arlington Heights officials in recent years also have made new investments in equipment for the department, including a $48,000 purchase that added four sets of special washers and dryers designed to remove dangerous contaminants from firefighters’ gear.

While some suburban departments have the means to pay for cancer prevention efforts, some departments in poor areas south of Chicago and farther downstate say they are struggling to find the resources to do so.

“We sell pizzas, have meat shoots and hold bingo games to raise money to put fuel in the trucks and keep the heat and electricity on in the station,” said Sharon Davis, 44, a volunteer assistant fire chief in Centreville Township, an economically struggling area that borders East St. Louis. “Yes, we’re worried about cancer, but we just don’t have the budget, so those things have to take a back seat.”

For the 70 percent of the nation’s fire service that relies on volunteers, representing 814,850 of the roughly 1.16 million firefighters across the U.S., investing in costly high-tech products and cancer prevention initiatives often is not in the budget.

As a result, volunteer departments and those that are poorly funded, find themselves faced with stark disparities in resources when it comes to keeping their crews safe, officials said.

But with heightened concerns about cancer fueling a patchwork of safety and prevention programs in fire departments across the U.S., resource-strapped departments need to understand the long-term implications, said Patrick Morrison, an official with the International Association of Fire Fighters, the labor union representing paid full-time firefighters and emergency medical services personnel in the U.S. and Canada.

“It’s not a level playing field when it comes to fire service cancer prevention programs, and it’s foolish thinking to expect a worker to buy their own protection gear,” Morrison said, adding, “Towns need to understand that the money spent on firefighter cancer prevention programs and risk management will, in the long run, prevent illnesses and reduce the costs of workers’ compensation and lawsuits.”

While the Illinois State Fire Marshal offers grants that allow struggling departments in need of new equipment to reuse older equipment from better-funded departments, new cancer-risk prevention products easily can exceed the modest budgets in towns that rely on volunteer firefighters, such as Colona, Ill., near the Quad Cities.

“A $400,000 truck costs the same for the Colona Fire Protection District as it costs the Arlington Heights Fire Department, but we’re just a small village,” said John Swan, volunteer fire chief in Colona and president of the Illinois Firefighters Association, an advocacy group.

Types of fire departments in Illinois

Most of the fire departments across the state are volunteer, though the percentage of volunteer departments in Illinois is lower than the rate nationally.

Fire departments in Illinois

Career and mostly

career departments.

Volunteer and mostly

volunteer departments

80.8% in Illinois

86.8% nationally

19.2% in Illinois

13.3% nationally.

Volunteer and paid-per-call

firefighters in Illinois

Career firefighters

in Illinois

Note: The National Fire Department Registry is voluntary, and the U.S. Fire Administration estimates more than 90 percent of departments in the U.S. are listed.

Source: U.S. Fire Administration National Fire Department Registry

Some fire departments closer to Chicago also are dealing with scarce resources to pay for cancer prevention initiatives.

In suburban Harvey, where city budget shortfalls led to 18 firefighters and 13 police officers being laid off earlier this year, cancer-risk prevention initiatives are on the back burner, said Jerry Marzullo, attorney for the Harvey firefighters union, International Association of Fire Fighters Local 471.

“In Harvey, the financial incompetence and malfeasance not only means you have trouble funding the fire department payroll, but there’s no money for cancer prevention purchases, like skin wipes,” said Marzullo, who is also a full-time firefighter in west suburban Berwyn.

In Gary, where officials said recently that the city’s financial issues could thrust the town into bankruptcy, firefighter Jimmy Siciliano, 30, who is recovering from testicular cancer, said he used his own money to pay for clothing designed to ward off exposure to dangerous carcinogens.

Despite the fact that the department’s former leader, Division Chief Marlon Coutee, died from cancer in January 2016, the city has yet to launch any cancer prevention initiatives, Siciliano said.

“We’re a busy fire department, but the city of Gary struggles for money, and we don’t have a second set of gear and only two gear washers for 10 stations across the city,” Siciliano said, adding that firefighters are forced to reuse their dirty gear for multiple calls for service.

WATCH: Inside the life of a volunteer department

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For well-funded departments, investing in a second set of gear often is an attainable option for addressing prevention, but it comes at a steep price, said Gavin Horn, a researcher with the Illinois Fire Service Institute for the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

Costing roughly $3,000 a piece, a set of additional gear simply is not “a reality for many departments,” Horn said.

Unusual measures, meanwhile, might be part of special programs.

The cancer dogs in Lincolnshire, for instance, are part of the Firefighter Cancer Screening Trials, a program based in Canada that works with more than 100 fire departments across the United States and has tested more than 30,000 people as of 2018, according to its website. The program is a “trial” and considered “experimental,” and officials have said false positives and false negatives are possible.

While a variety of specialized products — including wipes that are said to remove carcinogenic toxins — now are marketed to fire departments, studies find that low-cost options, such as soap and water, can be an equally effective guard against toxins, Horn said.

Andy Dina, Naperville deputy fire chief, is a cancer survivor and an active member of the Firefighter Cancer Survivor Network. Naperville deputy fire chief, a cancer survivor, emphasizes prevention efforts

When it comes to firefighters and cancer, Naperville Deputy Chief Andy Dina knows firsthand the importance of education, prevention and, above all, transforming a deeply entrenched culture.

Dina, a cancer survivor himself, frequently visits fire departments both large and small across the state to teach firefighters the basics of how to prevent cancer.

“I start out by talking about the firefighter cancer statistics and data, then about how we’re getting exposed to these toxins and, most importantly, what are the changes we can make today at little or no cost,” Dina said.

Dina points to studies that have found a decontamination routine using just soap and water on the scene might remove roughly 85 percent of the potential carcinogens that attach themselves to a firefighter’s gear and exposed skin.

If a fire department’s budget permits, Dina also advises investing in big-ticket items, including exhaust removal systems for firehouses, specialized heavy-duty washers and dryers, and a second set of gear.

But, Dina said, he realizes it can take years for even well-funded departments like Naperville to ensure that 100 percent of its firefighters have extra gear, which costs about $3,000 a set.

With Naperville firefighters answering about 15,000 calls a year, Dina said, the department made providing a second set of gear a priority to prevent its firefighters from reusing dirty gear as they head out on a new call.

“We made the second set of gear purchases slowly, and it took us several years,” Dina said. “But now, when they get back to the station, they can put their dirty gear in the wash, and there’s a second set waiting if they get another call.”

Dina said his own experience as a cancer survivor also is helpful to him as the state director of the Firefighter Cancer Support Network, where he serves as a mentor to other firefighters who are diagnosed with the disease.

“I’m clean now, and it’s been eight years,” Dina said. “But it’s helpful for other firefighters who were just diagnosed to talk to someone who’s gone through a similar experience.”

kcullotta@chicagotribune.com

Categories: Fire Service, Safety

‘If it smells ‘macho,’ it’s bad news’: Fire departments try to change rugged culture amid cancer debate

Firefighter Close Calls - Mon, 11/26/2018 - 13:02
PUBLISHED: November 26, 2018 A multi-part series

Line of duty: Firefighters and cancer

Des Plaines firefighters battle a five-alarm fire at the River Trails Condominium complex in Prospect Heights this past July.

When a massive, five-alarm fire engulfed an apartment complex in Prospect Heights in July, swallowing swaths of synthetic materials in its wake, fire Chief Drew Smith said he was determined to keep his crew safe.

“There are no timeouts in firefighting like there are in sports, when you can blow the whistle during a game. So, you have to make these decisions in a matter of seconds,” Smith recalled recently.

“We were not making any progress, even though we kept adding more resources, so at the one-hour point, I knew we had to pull everyone out, and I sounded the air-horn signal,” he said.

The blaze left 500 residents homeless and caused an estimated $10 million in damages, as well as minor injuries to a firefighter and two residents. Investigators ruled it an accidental fire started by an 11-year-old with a lighter.

What remains unknown is how many of the 200 firefighters at the scene strictly followed cancer prevention and safety protocols, which advise them to wear air masks, even after a fire is extinguished, and to follow a decontamination regimen to rid their bodies and gear of harmful toxins.

An afternoon breeze fed the fire, which spread rapidly because of the mansard roof design of the 1970s-era apartment complex. Some of the dozens of firefighters who had been on the scene for hours were no longer wearing their self-contained breathing apparatus, despite the shrouds of black smoke that could be seen and smelled from miles away.

Many firefighters have said that following prevention protocols designed to protect them can become a secondary priority when dealing with often high-stakes pressures to save lives in an emergency and extinguish blazes quickly.

Prospect Heights firefighters investigate and clean up following a five-alarm fire at the River Trails Condominium complex on July 19, 2018, in Prospect Heights. Two Palatine firefighters emerge from the smoke while battling a five-alarm fire at the River Trails Condominium complex July 18, 2018, in Prospect Heights. More than 150 firefighters from the Chicago area battled the blaze for nearly 12 hours. Prospect Heights firefighter Kevin Hedman looks out as the cleanup gets underway following a five-alarm fire at the River Trails Condominium complex July 19, 2018, in Prospect Heights. Winnetka firefighters take a break in a grassy area during a five-alarm fire at the River Trails Condominium complex July 18, 2018, in Prospect Heights. An intern from the Palatine Fire Department watches as a five-alarm fire burns at the River Trails Condominium complex July 18, 2018, in Prospect Heights. The intern was not allowed to actively engage in controlling the fire but instead was relegated to performing support tasks. A Palatine firefighter stands on the ladder of a firetruck and sprays water on a five-alarm fire at the River Trails Condominium complex July 18, 2018, in Prospect Heights. An automated hose atop a Palatine ladder truck sprays water on a five-alarm fire at the River Trails Condominium complex July 18, 2018, in Prospect Heights. Prospect Heights Battalion Chief Mark Oeltgen puts away gear July 19, 2018, following a five-alarm fire the previous day at the River Trails Condominium complex in Prospect Heights. A tired and sweaty Prospect Heights firefighter after a long night of fighting hot spots at the River Trails Condominium complex in Prospect Heights on July 19, 2018. A tired and sweaty Prospect Heights firefighter cleans up after a long night of fighting hot spots at the River Trails Condominium complex in Prospect Heights, July 19, 2018. (Stacey Wescott/Chicago Tribune) A Palatine firefighter stands at the top of a ladder truck and sprays water on a five-alarm fire at the River Trails Condominium complex July 18, 2018, in Prospect Heights. More than 150 firefighters from the Chicago area battled the blaze for nearly 12 hours. Des Plaines firefighters stand at the top of a ladder truck and spray water on a five-alarm fire at the River Trails Condominium complex July 18, 2018, in Prospect Heights. Firefighters stand on the upper floors of a five-alarm fire at the River Trails Condominium complex and spray water on some hot spots on July 18, 2018, in Prospect Heights.

The issue of wearing air masks is one example of the ongoing work to change the culture at many fire departments across the country, including Prospect Heights, amid the debate over cancer and its link to firefighters.

Smith recalled an era from decades past when some of his fellow firefighters refrained from wearing air masks unless a particular scene “was really bad.”

“Now, we’re of the position to never take it off,” Smith said of the masks. “More and more guys are afraid of getting cancer. … It’s become very personal, and people are trying to do the right thing.”

Protecting a firefighter

Protective clothing and equipment are designed to protect a firefighter from extreme heat, but not against direct exposure to toxic material. Even when worn correctly, skin contamination inevitably occurs. Here’s a look at steps a firefighter can take to mitigate cancer risk.

Following cleaning of outside equipment, firefighters should take off their hoods as soon as possible after an incident to stop further exposure to contaminants. Firefighters shouldn’t re-wear a dirty hood — they should have a second hood or clean one available.

Breathing apparatus and mask

Should be worn during the entire incident, through decontamination of outside equipment. After incident, firefighters should clean the mask and breathing apparatus with soapy water and a brush while it is still assembled.

Gloves need to be cleaned after each exposure. The first decontamination should happen at the site of the fire and a more thorough cleaning back at the station. Outer equipment should be sealed up or stored separately when taken back to avoid contact with harmful particles or chemicals.

Turnout coat and pants

These also need to be cleaned after each exposure. Additionally, dirty turnout pants and coats shouldn’t be stored in parts of a fire station where firefighters eat or sleep because contaminants could spread.

Both inside and outside of boots need to be cleaned following exposure.

Clothing and hygiene

A firefighter should clean soot from exposed parts of his or her body, especially the head, neck and hands at the site of the incident. When back at the station, firefighters should “shower within the hour” before deep cleaning other equipment and change clothes as well.

Sources: Fire Service Occupational Cancer Alliance; International Association of Fire Chiefs

To be sure, fire departments in the Chicago area and beyond are facing a herculean task to transform a deeply entrenched firefighter culture, said Gavin Horn, a researcher with the Illinois Fire Service Institute for the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. The institute is the state’s fire academy that conducts fire science research and provides training and educational programs for firefighters.

But the efforts to encourage cancer prevention protocols are starting to find success among many departments, especially with younger firefighters, Horn said.

“These days, a lot of firefighter conversations I hear are about how ‘clean is the new cool,’” Horn said, adding, “Being covered in soot is no longer a badge of honor for firefighters.”

Prevention efforts also have been strengthened in recent years to keep firefighters safe while on the job, countering the old adage that the fire service represents “150 years of tradition unimpeded by progress,” Horn said.

For example, many firefighters now are aware of the need to follow a decontamination routine while on the scene, scouring their skin and gear of toxins as rapidly as possible rather than waiting until they return to the firehouse, he said.

WATCH: Battling a massive blaze — and taking preventive measures after

In Prospect Heights, firefighters are required to have a spare set of gear to prevent them from re-wearing dirty clothing, while baby wipes and garbage bags are placed in the department’s trucks to ensure crews can start a decontamination regimen directly at the scene, Smith said.

Firefighters also have to bag their dirty garments in the garbage bags before they’re allowed to return to the fire house, since they are prohibited from wearing soiled garments in the living areas of the fire house, he said.

The preventive measures underscore some of the efforts to change the firefighting culture.

“If it smells ‘macho,’ it’s bad news,” Smith said, adding, “I don’t know if we can prevent firefighters from getting cancer, but we can reduce exposure to getting it, just like heart disease.”

At the Elgin Fire Department, Chief Dave Schmidt said his firefighters now are required to follow a gross decontamination process on the scene that involves using baby wipes to cleanse exposed areas of their bodies, such as the neck, throat and armpits.

Similar to Prospect Heights, Elgin firefighters have to remove dirty gear and pack it into sealed bags, which are stored on the trucks in an enclosed area away from the crew to ensure toxins on the garments do not become airborne or rub onto the seats of trucks, Schmidt said.

When firefighters return to the station, they also have to shower immediately, he said.

“We don’t even want anyone to grab a water bottle out of the refrigerator until they have washed up and we know they’re clean,” Schmidt said.

The department also has purchased special washers and dryers, and it is moving toward providing its firefighters with a second set of gear to ensure they’re not re-wearing a uniform covered in toxins, Schmidt said.

At the Illinois Firefighters Association, a nonprofit that provides educational programs and other support services for firefighters across the state, including volunteer departments, president John Swan said the organization’s recent kickoff of the Go Green Clean campaign, which is meant to prevent cancer among firefighters, highlights 11 best preventive practices for departments.

The recommendations include using full protective equipment throughout an incident, even after a fire has been extinguished, and during the salvage and overhaul process on the scene. Firefighters also are encouraged to begin immediate decontamination at the scene of a fire, using soap, water and a brush, if weather conditions allow, Swan said.

As the complex science behind the issue continues to evolve, fire departments have relied on some studies to change protocols regarding the use of air masks meant to protect a firefighter’s airways.

Firefighters and other rescue workers now are required to wear the mask until a supervisor at the scene of a fire determines the environment is safe enough for them to remove the device, said Patrick Gratzianna, deputy chief of the Palatine Fire Department, one of the many departments that assisted Prospect Heights during the recent apartment fire.

The requirement exists because the air masks are designed to provide breathable air and prevent firefighters from inhaling toxic fumes on the scene, Gratzianna said.

Firefighters also have to break for mandatory “rehab” after they’ve typically gone through two oxygen canisters since the breathing apparatus provides roughly 20 minutes to a half-hour of breathable air, Gratzianna said.

“Working with a mask on can be bothersome, and it takes time to put on a new one, but they do what they’re designed to do,” Gratzianna said. “An officer assigned to a crew on the scene needs to understand the value and importance of wearing (a mask) by example.”

Sources of toxic smoke

In previous decades, homes consisted of simple components — wood, textiles, metal and glass. Today, synthetic materials — complex plastics, industrial polymers and chemical coatings — mean home fires now burn faster and hotter and produce thick, toxic smoke. Here’s a look at the gases released when common bedroom items are set on fire.

Carcinogens found

Known to cause cancer, those exposed to this sweet-smelling chemical can experience skin, eye and throat irritation. Redness and blisters could also develop on skin.

This carcinogen may cause leukemia and other cancers. Exposure can cause eye pain, sore throat, difficulty breathing and blurred vision.

This cancer hazard can also be highly irritating to the eyes, nose and throat.

Television

(housing)

Dresser

(composite board)

Carpet and

padding

Bed sheets

and mattress

Sources: “Firefighter exposure to smoke particulates” by Underwriters Laboratories; American Cancer Society; Occupational Safety and Health Administration; Fire Service Occupational Cancer Alliance

Concerted cancer prevention efforts at fire departments are commendable, but they also should be accompanied by annual medical screenings, said Dr. Jyoti D. Patel, a professor of medicine in the hematology and oncology department at University of Chicago Medicine.

Patel, who specializes in treating lung cancer patients, said she frequently sees firefighters with the disease who have never smoked and have no family history of cancer.

She said that while doctors today often still can’t be sure if a firefighter’s cancer is related to his or her work duties, they do understand firefighters have to put themselves in dangerous situations that “many of us never go into.”

“One hundred percent of the firefighters I have treated look back and say they are incredulous that years ago, some of them never even used a mask,” Patel said. “I’m glad fire departments are now looking at prevention efforts, but I’m of the opinion that it’s not as simple as just using baby wipes and developing better equipment.”

kcullotta@chicagotribune.com

Twitter @kcullotta

Categories: Fire Service, Safety

Debate over studies, science complicate firefighters’ cancer prevention efforts

Firefighter Close Calls - Mon, 11/26/2018 - 13:00
PUBLISHED: November 26, 2018 A multi-part series

Line of duty: Firefighters and cancer

Researchers and firefighters have long known the dangers of smoke inhalation while the environment in which a fire develops has changed dramatically over five decades with more synthetic materials burning.

The evolving science assessing the heightened cancer risks in fighting fires does not yield many definitive answers, experts say.

As a result, many fire departments around the country try to mitigate cancer risks through a patchwork of prevention initiatives that are tethered to research, yet stymied by the sometimes contradictory studies.

“It’s a huge problem with a lot of unknowns,” said Steve Kerber, director of the Firefighter Safety Research Institute at Northbrook-based Underwriters Laboratories. “There are a lot of studies out there that make the link between firefighters and cancer, but it doesn’t answer specific questions about what exactly is happening.”

While both researchers and firefighters have long known the dangers of smoke inhalation and the heightened risk of pulmonary disease, various studies within the past five years, including one by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, have led to a better understanding of the possible connection between cancer and the toxins that firefighters are exposed to while on the job, Kerber said.

The environment in which a fire develops has changed dramatically over five decades, he said.

“We went from using all natural materials (in household goods) to using almost entirely synthetic materials, so it should not be much of a surprise,” Kerber said.

For example, a couch that was made with wood, cotton and horsehair decades ago now is composed entirely of synthetic materials that contain potentially toxic chemicals brought on, in part, by furniture manufacturers’ switch around 1950 to using polyurethane in their products, Kerber said.

“But synthetics are made from crude oil, which burns very differently, has more toxins and spreads much faster, too,” he said.

Firefighters stand on the upper floors of a five-alarm fire at the River Trails Condominium complex and spray water on some hot spots on July 18, 2018, in Prospect Heights. Firefighter cancer rates

A study of 30,000 firefighters from Chicago, Philadelphia and San Francisco showed that, for most cancer types, observed cancer rates were higher in the group of firefighters than in the general population. Below, a cancer rate greater than one for firefighters indicates more risk for that cancer type than general population.

Average cancer rate,

overall population

Firefighter

cancer rate

Mesothelioma

Leukaemia

Buccal and pharynx

Kidney

Breast

Intestine

Large intestine

Stomach

Small intestine

Lung

Bladder

Rectum

All

Prostate

Brain

Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma

Leukaemia

Testes

Multiple myeloma

Other male genital

Source: National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health

As part of a demonstration examining the differences, researchers with the institute staged two living rooms — one with wooden furniture, a cotton-covered sofa and other so-called “legacy” furnishings and another with modern items, such as a microfiber-covered, polyurethane-foam-filled sectional sofa, Kerber said.

After a lit candle was placed on each side of the different sofas, allowing fires to grow, the modern room burst into flames within three minutes and 30 seconds, while the fire in the legacy room took roughly a half hour to reach the same point.

While firefighters battle fires that could be burning quicker than in decades past, they’re also in environments that include black smoke emanating from burning synthetic materials, which contain harmful hydrocarbon particulate matter, Kerber said.

“We have somewhere along the lines of 70,000 different chemicals, and everything is made from them, but we know the health implications of less than 1 percent,” Kerber said. “The chemicals are changing faster than we can understand them.”

To address other unknowns, researchers are studying whether the health hazards to firefighters exposed to toxins can be from just one exposure, or repeated exposures, as well as whether each person’s body is resilient in different ways, Kerber said.

Officials with the American Chemistry Council say the goal should be “to protect firefighters from exposure to any smoke from fires, regardless of the contents of what is burning.”

“Fires, and the resulting smoke, are toxic regardless of the source of those fires and what is being burned,” said Kathryn Murray St. John, a spokeswoman for the council. “It is a misconception to think that smoke from an old wooden house burning is somehow less dangerous than smoke from a modern house burning.”

The council, which is based in Washington, advocates and lobbies for chemical manufacturing companies.

While the American Chemistry Council recognizes “elevated rates of some cancers among firefighters, such as mesothelioma,” they are generally attributed to specific causes, such as asbestos exposure, St. John said.

“The increased cancer rates for the specific cancers identified by (the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health) were not attributed to use of any specific materials or products in modern-day buildings,” she said. “While there have been claims that chemicals in modern-day products may contribute to increased cancer rates in firefighters, such cause-and-effect relationships have not been established.”

kcullotta@chicagotribune.com

Twitter @kcullotta

Categories: Fire Service, Safety

‘Not just fighting fires’: Cancer among firefighters causes alarm, uncertainty and heartbreak

Firefighter Close Calls - Mon, 11/26/2018 - 12:58
PUBLISHED: November 26, 2018 Line of duty: A multipart series Firefighters and cancer

Firefighters carry the casket of Lt. James Carney, 43, of the Lincolnshire-Riverwoods Fire Protection District, during his funeral at St. Patrick Church on Dec. 22, 2017, in Wadsworth.

Nearly 10 months had passed since Buffalo Grove firefighter Kevin Hauber died from colon cancer, but his 39-year-old widow had yet to remove the hospital bed from the dining room of their family home.

Even the sliding glass doors leading to the backyard patio remained unchanged, adorned with hand-painted messages from the four Hauber daughters, such as, “I have the best mom and dad in the world,” “Rest in peace daddy” and “You will be forever missed!”

WATCH: A widow fights for a pension, a colleague gives a eulogy

“I thought I’d be further down the road, but I’m not,” said Kim Hauber, as she tended to the detritus of her husband’s death — the unpaid medical bills, the pending transfer of the title to Kevin’s SUV, what to do with a pair of his old firefighter boots resting on a step.

“I still haven’t even cleaned out Kevin’s closet yet, which is turning out to be a lot more emotional than I thought it would be,” she said.

The Buffalo Grove Firefighter Pension Board ruled that the 51-year-old’s death from colon cancer was related to exposure to toxins found in fires, which some studies recently have linked to a heightened cancer risk for firefighters. The decision earlier this year called for a death-in-the-line-of-duty benefit that would ensure Kevin Hauber’s family would receive his full annual salary, which roughly totals $100,000 a year.

But as Kim Hauber and her four daughters struggled to mend their broken lives, a weekend trip this past summer to the Wisconsin Dells was interrupted by news from officials in Buffalo Grove.

Citing their “fiduciary responsibilities” to area taxpayers, village officials announced they filed a lawsuit in June challenging the pension board’s decision to award a full death pension, arguing that not enough evidence exists that Hauber’s fatal colon cancer was a result of his work.

The Hauber girls, from left, Kaitlyn, 12, and triplets Brooklyn, Megan and Nicole, all 10, cuddle with their father, Kevin Hauber, the day before he died from cancer Jan. 26, 2018. The Buffalo Grove Fire Department Pension Board determined earlier this year that Kevin Hauber’s cancer was caused in the line of duty. (Courtesy of Kim Hauber) Longtime Buffalo Grove firefighter-paramedic Kevin Hauber, 51, died Jan. 27, 2018, after a four-year battle with cancer. (Buffalo Grove Fire Department)

The Hauber family’s experience is reflected in debates about the still-unclear link between firefighting and cancer unfolding across Illinois and the rest of the country, including Congress, where the Firefighter Cancer Registry Act (H.R. 931) was signed into law in July.

As firefighter pension boards rule some deaths are related to the job, even though the science to prove those claims is in its early stages, officials in cities and villages increasingly are stuck in the middle, sometimes turning to courts to decide if an employee’s death was related to the job and if line-of-duty benefits are warranted.

Under the new federal law, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention will collect data via a voluntary registry as part of its ongoing research into whether firefighters’ work increases the odds of them developing some types of cancer. Firefighter advocates, meanwhile, cite existing statistics and say the connection already is indisputable.

In the series “Line of duty: Firefighters and cancer,” Pioneer Press and the Chicago Tribune explore the research into the suspected relationship between firefighting and cancer, the challenge facing area policymakers and the effect the complexities of the situation have on firefighters and their families.

It also examines the differences in prevention efforts between well-funded departments, including those in affluent Chicago suburbs, and financially strapped departments farther downstate and in poor cities such as Gary — a situation that often divides members of fire service into haves and have-nots, and one that first responders and their families say is unfair and dangerous.

Yet, it’s not solely an economic issue. Firefighters in the best-funded departments say they are affected by a historic lack of attention to the issue, leaving them without proper protection, and their families, such as the Haubers, fighting with communities over death benefits.

“I was disappointed and confused because when he first started working for Buffalo Grove, they promised that if a firefighter was injured or died because of the job, their family still would be taken care of,” said Kim Hauber, who recently hired an attorney in her battle to retain her current pension benefits.

Kim Hauber sits in the dining room on the bed where she used to care for her cancer-ridden husband, Kevin, five months after he died in McHenry. Since his death, Kim has been caring for their four daughters. The Buffalo Grove Fire Department Pension Board determined that Kevin Hauber’s cancer was caused in the line of duty, but the village has sued over that ruling. Messages written to their dad, following his death in January, by Kevin Hauber’s four daughters fill the sliding glass door at the family home on May 23, 2018, in McHenry. The Hauber girls, from left, Kaitlyn, 13, Nicole, 10, Brooklyn, 10, and Megan, 10, reach for the individual plaster castings of them holding hands with their father, Kevin Hauber, at their home on July 17, 2018, in McHenry. ‘Difficult to analyze’

Since the nation’s first publicly funded fire departments were established in the 17th century, firefighting has been fraught with hazards inherent to the profession, such as back drafts, collapsing roofs, smoke inhalation, disfiguring burns and savage natural disasters like the massive wildfires that have raged across California in recent weeks.

But an advocacy group, the Firefighter Cancer Support Network, maintains cancer was the cause of 70 percent of career firefighter line-of-duty deaths in 2016, with firefighters having a 14 percent higher risk of dying from the disease than the public.

Those numbers do not include cancer deaths among the roughly 814,000 volunteer firefighters, who represent about 70 percent of the 1.16 million firefighters nationwide, according to the National Fire Protection Association.

The newly signed Firefighter Cancer Registry Act also requires the CDC to create a national cancer registry for firefighters to monitor and study the relationship between the profession and exposure to dangerous fumes and toxins while on the job. The data will be used to track the incidence of cancer in firefighters with the goal of developing a national safety protocol, including the recommended use of protective gear and improved prevention methods.

The new law was supported by a multiyear, large-scale study by the CDC’s National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) of nearly 30,000 firefighters from the Chicago, Philadelphia and San Francisco fire departments.

The study found higher rates of certain types of cancer among firefighters than the general U.S. population. The findings suggest firefighters may be at higher risk of digestive, oral, respiratory and urinary system cancers than the general population.

Despite the new law and the study’s findings, an absence of national guidelines means funding and cancer prevention protocol vary dramatically among the roughly 28,000 fire departments across the United States.

Above all, firefighters from across Chicago and the suburbs who were interviewed for this series said a major challenge in preventing cancer within their ranks is transforming a deeply entrenched culture built on the image of the brave, soot-covered hero battling fires and saving lives.

“I think in the firefighting community, we have a lot of guys who think they’re invincible,” said Chicago Fire Department Capt. Tony Martin, who serves as a trustee for the Chicago Firefighters Union Local 2 annuity and benefit fund.

“If they work out and work hard, they don’t think cancer will ever happen to them, until it does, and that changes your entire perspective,” said Martin, 53, who was diagnosed with oral squamous cell cancer in 2004.

Buffalo Grove firefighters hang a giant American flag before the start of the funeral for 23-year veteran firefighter/paramedic Kevin Hauber, 51, at St. Mary Catholic Church on Feb. 2, 2018 in Buffalo Grove. Hauber died following a four-year battle with colon cancer. He is survived by his wife and four young daughters. Fire departments from around Illinois attended the funeral in his honor.

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A fourth-generation firefighter, whose family history with the Chicago Fire Department dates to 1906, Martin said he began work at a desk job within weeks after his diagnosis, followed by a return to the field after his treatment and recovery.

“It’s an Irish thing. … You walk out the door you walked in,” Martin said, adding, “They caught it really early, and I was very fortunate because I didn’t have any symptoms.”

Spurred on by his own experience and the increase in cancer among his peers, Martin said he began to collect data on local cases, looking at active, disabled and retired Chicago firefighters who were diagnosed with the disease.

Martin said he decided to gather his own statistics on the issue due to the dearth of any centralized, governmental database — the type of information that, officials with the CDC say, will be included in the new voluntary cancer registry.

“Working on the pension board, I have the honor to help them,” Martin said. “I’ve seen some terrible tragedies, but it’s something that’s very difficult to analyze because the exposures are so varied.”

How firefighters die in the line of duty

Two organizations that track how firefighters die in the line of duty have different totals. This is because they gather data differently and categorize how deaths occurred differently. The totals when taken together provide a view of active duty deaths.

Number of firefighters who died in the line of duty in 2017,

according to a count by the U.S. Fire Administration

Died while on

nonemergency duty

Died while on

emergency duty

Died of heart attack or stroke

within 24 hours of being on duty

Number of firefighters who died in the line of duty in 2017 in the U.S. and Canada, according to a count by the International Association of Fire Fighters

Died from burns, trauma, heart disease or other causes

Line of duty cancer deaths by year

For the U.S. and Canade, from the IAFF

Note: The USFA gathers data from fire departments and a host of federal agencies. It does not keep track of firefighters who die from cancer but does track those who die of heart attack or stroke within 24 hours of being on duty as part of the federal Hometown Heroes Survivors Benefit Act. The IAFF gathers data from affiliated unions, and each death is certified by local representatives and leaders in the IAFF. To consider an active duty death caused by cancer, the IAFF looks at the laws from where the firefighter was from as well as scientific evidence on types of cancer among firefighters.

Sources: The U.S. Fire Administration and the International Association of Fire Fighters

‘Awareness can only help’

While it is typically difficult to determine if it is one dangerous call or repeated toxic exposures that cause cancers in firefighters, the death of Evanston Fire Department Capt. Ron Shulga, 55, in May 2017 was linked to his work on a December 1989 fire at the Varsity Theater, said Evanston fire Chief Brian Scott.

Shulga was among the crew that arrived at the fire scene 29 years ago at 1710 Sherman Ave., and was exposed to heavy black smoke emanating from the roof and rear of the building, Scott recalled recently.

After working at the scene for several hours, Shulga was exposed to smoke and chemicals, which he was not able to clean off his gear for more than a week, leading to a prolonged exposure to toxins, Scott said.

The source of the fire was an old transformer near the back of the theater that was later determined to contain polychlorinated biphenyls — PCBs — a chemical that is among the carcinogens considered by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to pose a cancer risk to people.

Diagnosed in 2000 with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, Shulga, who was a married father and a 29-year veteran of the department, was able to return to full duty in 2001, but the disease resurfaced twice, in 2011 and in 2016.

Despite a stem cell transplant and high-dose chemotherapy treatments, Shulga eventually halted his work with the department and died in May 2017.

He had no family history of the disease, Scott said. At that point, cancer risks “had been on our radar for years,” Scott said.

“But Capt. Shulga’s passing was another motivating factor for us to get more defined and comprehensive procedures in place,” he said.

Like other fire departments, the Evanston department now follows a strict cancer prevention protocol before and after a fire call to try and minimize firefighters’ exposure to carcinogenic toxins, Scott said.

“Firefighting is a vocation, and we do whatever we can to help others, and we don’t have a problem putting our own lives at risk,” Scott said. “But for the things we can control, we need to do as much as possible, and I think more data and awareness can only help.”

‘Increased risk’

For decades, researchers have known that fires generate toxic combustion products, some of which are known or suspected to cause cancer, and that firefighters may be exposed to these toxins while performing their jobs.

But while cancer risk among firefighters has been evaluated in previous studies, the conclusions were limited by relatively small study populations and short follow-up periods, said Robert Daniels, lead author of the 2010 CDC’s NIOSH study.

The retrospective, longitudinal study, which is ongoing, has fewer of the limitations found in previous studies.

For the current study, cancer incidence and deaths were analyzed among a large number of career firefighters over a 60-year period, from 1950 to 2009, Daniels said.

Among the study’s key findings were that firefighters had more cancer deaths and cancer cases than expected, with the higher rate of the disease primarily due to digestive, oral, respiratory and urinary cancers, Daniels said.

The study also found there were about twice as many malignant mesothelioma cases than were expected, with firefighters’ exposure to asbestos in buildings while fighting fires likely being the primary cause of the disease, Daniels said.

In addition, some cancers occurred at a higher-than-expected rate among younger firefighters. For example, firefighters who were younger than 65 years old had more bladder and prostate cancers than expected, Daniels said.

While the NIOSH study supports the scientific evidence that firefighters are at increased risk of some types of cancer, Daniels said, the study cannot determine if a specific individual’s cancer is related to his or her job duties.

In addition to firefighters’ exposures to toxins, an array of other factors may influence whether a particular cancer develops, Daniels said. Those factors include family history and lifestyle habits, such as diet, exercise, smoking and alcohol consumption.

“There is no way to tell if a cancerous tumor is occupation-related by just looking at the tumor,” Daniels said. “Because of that, there’s always an amount of uncertainty, and it can be hard to get at the truth.”

Still, Daniels said: “There is unequivocal evidence that firefighters are exposed to carcinogens, and it’s not too far of a stretch to say that with increased exposure comes increased risk.”

But Daniels said the NIOSH study does not yet yield scientific evidence to support the general consensus among firefighters that cancer deaths in their ranks are surging.

“There is absolutely more awareness of firefighter cancer deaths than in the past, and more attention is given to prevention, but I can’t say if there are more or less cases,” he said.

Balancing acts

As researchers like Daniels continue to study whether firefighters have a higher risk of cancer due to exposure to toxins while on the job, officials at departments across the Chicago suburbs are becoming increasingly vigilant about combating what many describe as the most daunting challenge now facing firefighters.

The death of Waukegan firefighter Kevin Oldham, 33, from pancreatic cancer in 2011, followed by the diagnoses of two members of the department who currently are battling cancer, has made preventing cancer a top priority for the department, Waukegan fire Chief George Bridges Jr. said.

“Firefighters these days are not just fighting fires. They are dealing with structures that are categorized as (hazardous materials) incidents because of all of the chemical toxins in the buildings,” Bridges said. “As a fire chief, firefighters are my superheroes, and the byproducts of today’s fires are their kryptonite.”

He added: “It really touched home after Kevin’s death. … He was very young, and had a wife and kids.

“We are a family here, and when someone dies or is ill, and to think there’s something we can do to help prevent this, it hurts us even more,” Bridges said.

As fire chiefs like Bridges cope with the loss of a firefighter and struggle to find ways to help those who are still battling cancer, government officials in the area face formidable challenges posed by cancer cases.

In Buffalo Grove, village officials said the decision to file a lawsuit contesting the firefighter pension board’s ruling to grant Kevin Hauber’s family a full pension was made after much deliberation.

Paying the Hauber family the full pension benefit would cost taxpayers an additional $1.7 million over the course of the pension, officials have said.

In addition, officials said the pension board’s decision represented a “precedent-setting case,” which, if not challenged, would have a long-term, negative financial effect on municipalities.

“It’s very difficult to balance the human interests of Kevin’s widow and her children with the financial and fiduciary responsibilities we have to our residents,” Buffalo Grove Village Manager Dane Bragg said. “It is definitely challenging, and we have been sensitive of that from day one. But sometimes, you have to make a decision that is not the most popular position to be in.”

When a municipality designs a pension system, officials should ensure that the contractual agreements in cases of employee disability and death are stated clearly, and they also “need to honor them,” said Jeffrey Brown, dean of the Gies College of Business for the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

While fatalities from catastrophic injuries suffered during a service call have none of the ambiguity inherent to cancer deaths, Brown said pension policy contracts should be airtight and eliminate any lingering questions for family members about their benefits.

“I’m sympathetic to these families because public pensions have become a hot-button political and financial issue,” Brown said. “But a pension policy should be writ large with a promise that the city is obligated to either pay the pension benefit or not.”

The helmet and jacket of Lt. James Carney, 43, of the Lincolnshire-Riverwoods Fire Protection District, rests on the front of Engine 52 before the funeral procession heads to the cemetery outside of St. Patrick Church on Dec. 22, 2017, in Wadsworth. Family members of Lt. James Carney, 43, a firefighter with the Lincolnshire-Riverwoods Fire Protection District, walk behind his casket during his funeral at St. Patrick Church on Dec. 22, 2017, in Wadsworth. Pictured are his wife, Janelle Carney, and their two children Peyton, left, and Brett. Firefighters carrying the casket of Lt. James Carney, 43, of the Lincolnshire-Riverwoods Fire Protection District, weep following his funeral at St. Patrick Church on Dec. 22, 2017, in Wadsworth. Firefighters carry the casket of Lt. James Carney, 43, of the Lincolnshire-Riverwoods Fire Protection District, during his funeral at St. Patrick Church on Dec. 22, 2017, in Wadsworth. Dozens of firefighters from throughout the area turned out for Carney’s funeral. Carney was diagnosed with duty-related cancer in 2013 after medical examinations determined the disease was the result of repeated exposure to carcinogens while fighting fires, said Steve Shetsky, a co-worker, a firefighter and an executive board member of the International Association of Fire Fighters Local 4224. A firefighter touches the casket of Lt. James Carney, 43, of the Lincolnshire-Riverwoods Fire Protection District, during his funeral at St. Patrick Church on Dec. 22, 2017, in Wadsworth. A photo of Lt. James Carney, 43, of the Lincolnshire-Riverwoods Fire Protection District, sits on an easel at his funeral at St. Patrick Church on Dec. 22, 2017, in Wadsworth. A firefighter watches from the back of the church during the funeral of Lt. James Carney, 43, of the Lincolnshire-Riverwoods Fire Protection District, at St. Patrick Church on Dec. 22, 2017, in Wadsworth. Hundreds of people turned out for Carney’s funeral. The casket of Lt. James Carney, 43, of the Lincolnshire-Riverwoods Fire Protection District, rests in the aisle of St. Patrick Church during his funeral on Dec. 22, 2017, in Wadsworth. Hundreds of people turned out for the funeral of Lt. James Carney, 43, of the Lincolnshire-Riverwoods Fire Protection District, at St. Patrick Church on Dec. 22, 2017, in Wadsworth. The driver of the firetruck carrying the casket of Lt. James Carney, 43, of the Lincolnshire-Riverwoods Fire Protection District, hugs a young boy before heading off to the cemetery following Carney’s funeral service at St. Patrick Church on Dec. 22, 2017, in Wadsworth. Firefighters lift the casket of Lt. James Carney, 43, of the Lincolnshire-Riverwoods Fire Protection District, onto the firetruck following his funeral at St. Patrick Church on Dec. 22, 2017 in Wadsworth.

After the cancer death of Lincolnshire-Riverwoods Fire Protection District Lt. James Carney, 43, village officials did not fight the Fire Department pension board’s decision to grant his widow and their two young children a full pension benefit, said Steve Shetsky, a fellow firefighter and member of the International Association of Fire Fighters Local 4224.

Carney, who was raised on his family’s farm in Wadsworth, was diagnosed with cancer in 2013 after medical examinations determined the disease was the result of repeated exposure to carcinogens while he was out fighting fires, Shetsky said.

According to court records, Carney, who had sought medical attention after he was having trouble sleeping and was coughing at night, was diagnosed with pericarditis, which is the swelling of the tissue around the heart.

After a surgery was performed, doctors found a tumor between Carney’s heart and the membrane enclosing the heart. His firefighting career ended after diagnosis and treatment for pericardial mesothelioma, court records show.

While Carney was granted line-of-duty disability pension benefits and his death was ruled as duty-based, officials denied a request that his family be covered by a health insurance benefit under the Public Safety Employee Benefits Act, prompting a February 2016 lawsuit against the fire protection district.

A June decision by the Illinois Appellate Court upheld a ruling by the Circuit Court of Lake County that the Carney family is indeed entitled to the line-of-duty disability pension benefit.

“Every aspect of this entire process has been extremely difficult for everyone involved,” Shetsky said. “This seems to have become the new norm … municipalities contesting line-of-duty benefits. They risked their lives for their communities in the short time they lived, and now, their loved ones face a battle.”

kcullotta@chicagotribune.com

Twitter @kcullotta

Categories: Fire Service, Safety

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