Fire Service

SF to settle with firefighter blamed for running over girl in Asiana crash

ARFF Working Group - Wed, 02/07/2018 - 07:38

By Michael Barba

Tuesday February 06, 2018

San Francisco has reached a $250,000 tentative settlement in a lawsuit alleging a firefighter was wrongly blamed for the death of a teenage passenger in the Asiana Airlines crash.

The lawsuit claimed firefighter Elyse Duckett became a “sacrificial lamb” for the San Francisco Fire Department after 16-year-old Ye Meng Yuan died as first responders scrambled to rescue passengers and douse flames July 6, 2013.

Asiana Flight 214 clipped the seawall at San Francisco International Airport and burst into flames on the runway. The impact ejected Ye from the Boeing 777.

Two fire rigs later struck the teenager, according the lawsuit. Ye was covered in fire-fighting foam when Duckett drove the second rig over her. Firefighter Jimmy Yee drove the first rescue vehicle. Yet, the lawsuit alleged a member of the SFFD only leaked Duckett’s name to the press as the firefighter who ran over Ye.

“As questions about SFFD leadership and training intensified, the brass attempted to shift blame and scapegoat an individual firefighter to minimize and downplay broader failures within the SFFD,” attorneys said in the lawsuit.

Fire Chief Joanne Hayes-White said in a court filing July 28 that she did not know who in the department, if anyone, leaked the name to ABC7 News. Hayes-White also said firefighters acted “immediately and effectively.”

“At great danger to themselves, department first responders rushed to the crash site, initiated a daring search and rescue for passengers trapped on the burning plane and extinguished fires,” Hayes-White said. “Their valiant efforts saved hundreds of lives. Three hundred and four people aboard Flight 214 survived.”

Hayes-White said Ye was one of three passengers who died after being ejected from one of the two back rows of the jetliner.

San Francisco fire officials said in a January 2014 accident investigation report to the National Transportation Safety Board that Ye died before being run over by either rescue vehicle.

Duckett, a 24-year veteran of the SFFD, is a black lesbian woman who the lawsuit said was a member of the first class of firefighters to join the department under a court-ordered consent decree to integrate the SFFD.

The lawsuit claimed SFFD named only her in retaliation for being outspoken against harassment and discrimination in the department, including “their continued marginalization and patronizing of women at SFO.”

Hayes-White said she was not aware before the lawsuit that Duckett “had ever complained that any department member had ever subjected her to discrimination, harassment, or retaliation.”

Court records show the City Attorney’s Office reached a settlement with Duckett in early November. The Board of Supervisors is expected to approve the tentative settlement in the coming weeks.

“While The City has sound arguments and defenses in this matter, we believe this is a reasonable and prudent settlement given the facts, the legal claims and the inherent uncertainty of litigation,” said John Cote, a spokesperson for the City Attorney’s Office.

Eduardo Roy, an attorney for Duckett, could not immediately be reached for comment.

http://www.sfexaminer.com/sf-settle-firefighter-blamed-running-girl-asiana-crash/?utm_source=feedburnersfexaminer-columns&utm_medium=feedSan+Francisco+Examiner+Columns+Feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+sfexaminer-columns+%28San+Francisco+Examiner+Columns+Feed%29feed&utm_content=feed

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Today in History

ARFF Working Group - Wed, 02/07/2018 - 07:37

52 Years ago today: On 7 February 1966 an Indian Airlines Fokker F-27 crashed in Banihall Pass, killing all 37 occupants.

Date: Monday 7 February 1966 Time: ca 11:55 Type: Fokker F-27 Friendship 200 Operating for: Indian Airlines Leased from: Schreiner Airways Registration: PH-SAB C/n / msn: 10271 First flight: 1965 Total airframe hrs: 1930 Cycles: 1280 Crew: Fatalities: 4 / Occupants: 4 Passengers: Fatalities: 33 / Occupants: 33 Total: Fatalities: 37 / Occupants: 37 Airplane damage: Destroyed Airplane fate: Written off (damaged beyond repair) Location: Banihall Pass (   India) Crash site elevation: 3768 m (12362 feet) amsl Phase: En route (ENR) Nature: Domestic Scheduled Passenger Departure airport: Srinagar Airport (SXR/VISR), India Destination airport: Jammu-Satwari Airport (IXJ/VIJU), India

Narrative:
At 11:27 hours local time, the F-27 took off from Srinagar (SXR) for the return journey to Delhi-Palam Airport (DEL) with en route stops at Amritsar (ATQ) and Jammu (IXJ). The flight was cleared to climb VMC. A few seconds later, the Commander reported that he had climbed to 7500 ft and was turning to starboard. Srinagar Control requested a call while passing 8000 ft and the request was complied with. The controller then requested a call when passing 15 miles. No message, however, was received and at 11:40 controller asked for the position of the aircraft. The crew replied: “Will be crossing Banihal 2 to 3 minutes.”
Erroneous navigation took the captain to a point 12 miles west of his normal route. At this spot, the configuration of the mountain range has a deceptive similarity with the Banihal Pass, and has, because of this similarity, come to be known as “False Banihal”. The hills near “False Banihal” are several thousand feet higher than the true Banihal. The pilot must have realized his error and his wrong position too late when he saw the high mountain in front of him on emerging from the clouds. He attempted to climb but the aircraft hit the hill about 300 ft below the summit, at 12364 ft asl. It broke into two main pieces which fell on either side of a big rock, while several smaller pieces were broken off and scattered over a considerable area on the hillside. Some portions of the fuselage were found nearly 3000 ft below the point of impact.

Probable Cause:

PROBABLE CAUSE: “The cause of the accident was undoubtedly a navigational error. The Court was at first tempted to accept the hypothesis that the error was committed deliberately by Capt. Duggal because he wanted to take a short cut over the hill to Udampur, instead of going first to Banihal and then turning slightly right to the prescribed route to Udampur. Some support was lent to this hypothesis by the general assessment of Capt. Duggal’s character as being hasty and casual and disinclined to pay heed to detail. But after giving greater consideration, it seems to the Court that this hypothesis cannot be accepted and that the navigational error was not intentional.
The configuration of the hill at a spot 12miles west of the Banihal Pass does not snow that the aircraft would have had a clear passage at an altitude of 12000ft because there are hills which are 14000ft high as shown by the contour lines on the map. Also Duggal did reply to the call 0610 hours GMT when he said that he would be crossing Banihal in two or three minted. It seems to the Court, therefore, that when flying through clouds at an altitude insufficient to ensure safety, Duggal found himself at a spot which resembled in its appearance the Banihal Pass. He must have steered an incorrect heading on leaving the airfield. Changes in cloud formation and decreasing visibility did not permit a full and clear view of the mountain range which lay across the route. So, when he was near the point where it crashed, he thought that he was going to cross Banihal and sent this message to the airport. In point of fact, he was 12 miles off his track and crashed at a point 12364ft above sea level.
A more careful and cautious pilot would, in the circumstances, have made sure of his direction and position by a reference to the Srinagar Airport where, in addition to the VOR, an Automatic Direction Finding facility is available.”

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Pre-arrival video from New Kensington, Pennsylvania house fire

Statter 911 - Tue, 02/06/2018 - 22:56

Man jumped from porch roof in Sunday night fire

The post Pre-arrival video from New Kensington, Pennsylvania house fire appeared first on Statter911.

Categories: Fire Service

Toddler dies during Arizona fire station visit

Statter 911 - Tue, 02/06/2018 - 22:13

Child was a relative of a Scottsdale firefighter

The post Toddler dies during Arizona fire station visit appeared first on Statter911.

Categories: Fire Service

FIREFIGHTER INJURED AT PATTERSON, NJ FIRE

Firefighter Close Calls - Tue, 02/06/2018 - 19:36

A massive, five alarm fire in Paterson, New Jersey displaced 16 people Monday night, the fire department said.

80 firefighters responded to the blaze.

The deep seated fire began around 11:33 p.m. Monday in the basement of a building located at 268 Main Street, according to Paterson Fire Chief Brian J. McDermott. He said 80 firefighters responded, but were driven out by the heat, flames and “odd configuration of the building.”

The 3-and-a-half story wood framed building ended up collapsing, Chief McDermott said.

Categories: Fire Service, Safety

PA FIREFIGHTER INJURED AT HOUSE FIRE

Firefighter Close Calls - Tue, 02/06/2018 - 18:17

At least one firefighter was injured as emergency responders called for fire crews to evacuate a burning building Tuesday in Mount Joy.

Crews were dispatched at 3:15 p.m. to a house in the 600 block of Union School Road.

Heavy smoke and flames were seen coming from the roof.

Fire crews evacuated and additional EMS units were called in around 3:45 p.m.

A portion of Union School Road was closed temporarily at around 4 p.m., 911 dispatchers said.

One firefighter sustained arm burns of unknown severity, according to initial scanner reports.

Crews were off scene by 6:45 p.m.

Categories: Fire Service, Safety

LOUISIANA FIREFIGHTER TRAPPED BY ROOF COLLAPSE – RESCUED BY CIVILIANS

Firefighter Close Calls - Tue, 02/06/2018 - 18:14

A Central firefighter became trapped when an overhang roof collapsed while crews were working a house fire Monday afternoon. But civilians on scene helped rescue him, according to a Facebook post from the Central Fire Department.

Crews were dispatched around 2:40 p.m. to the 12100 block of Lancewood Drive for a building on fire behind a home. They found the large building was totally involved in fire and the home was being threatened while the homeowner was suffering medical issues, according to the post.

One firefighter became trapped when an overhang roof fell on him. That’s when civilians “jumped into action and assisted firefighters in safely removing the captain,” the post says. He was checked by Emergency Medical Services and returned to active duty.

The fire was controlled by about 3:40 p.m. with no injuries.

The shed that caught on fire contained an antique car and all-terrain vehicle along with propane bottles and an oxygen tank, according to a news release Monday night from the Central Fire Department. Several explosions occurred when those flammable substances ignited.

Arson investigators from the Baton Rouge Fire Department were called out to complete the investigation, the release said.

Categories: Fire Service, Safety

FLORIDA FIREFIGHTER INJURED AT FIRE

Firefighter Close Calls - Tue, 02/06/2018 - 18:11

A firefighter was injured after battling a blaze at a DeFuniak Springs home on Monday evening.

According to a press release from Walton County Fire Rescue, crews from WCFR, DeFuniak Springs Fire Department and Argyle Volunteer Fire Department responded to a mobile home fire at 2817 Cosson Rd. just after 8 p.m. Monday.

The home was fully engulfed in flames when firefighters and paramedics arrived. All residents of the home made it out safely, but one firefighter suffered “minor injuries” while fighting the blaze. Crews worked for approximately 30 minutes to extinguish the fire.

The injured firefighter was transported to a local hospital. No other injuries to firefighters or residents were reported.

Electrical issues are believed to be the cause of the fire. Crews cleared the scene just after 11 p.m.

Categories: Fire Service, Safety

FIRE DEPARTMENT TILLER TRUCK FIRE IN VA – 1 FIREFIGHTER INJURED

Firefighter Close Calls - Tue, 02/06/2018 - 18:09

Three people are recovering after a fire truck caught on fire on Tuesday afternoon in Charlottesville.

The fire happened on West Street just before 12:30 p.m. on Tuesday, February 6, in a parking lot. Eyewitnesses reported seeing smoke coming from the cab of Truck 8, which is used as a backup.

Two civilians went to the hospital for smoke inhalation, and one firefighter was also taken to the hospital for an eye injury. The fire caused significant damage to the mechanical systems of the truck.

The cause of the fire is under investigation.

Categories: Fire Service, Safety

FIREFIGHTER LODD IN SOUTH AFRICA

Firefighter Close Calls - Tue, 02/06/2018 - 18:06

A local firefighter died while fighting a raging fire in the mountains surrounding Franschoek yesterday.
Makelepe Sedric Seokoma (36), an assistant project manager who worked at Sekororo Base in Limpopo but resided in the Lowveld, was engulfed by flames in the Simonsberg Mountain near Klapmuts in the Western Cape.

Manager of the Lowveld and Escarpment Fire Protection Association, who used to work with Seokoma for years, said he is saddened by the loss of a dedicated colleague and friend.

The fire started on Saturday on the property of a forestry company and spread to the Simonsberg Mountains. Working on Fire (WoF) had 25 firefighters who provided fire-suppression support and the blaze was declared as contained on Sunday at around 18:00.

Categories: Fire Service, Safety

No light duty option, pregnant FL firefighter says she will work until delivery day

Statter 911 - Tue, 02/06/2018 - 17:45

CBA prohibits pregnant Indian River County firefighter from going on light duty

The post No light duty option, pregnant FL firefighter says she will work until delivery day appeared first on Statter911.

Categories: Fire Service

Today is Tuesday the 6th of February, 2018

ARFF Working Group - Tue, 02/06/2018 - 08:09

Here are the articles for today…

Be safe out there!

Tom

The post Today is Tuesday the 6th of February, 2018 appeared first on ARFFWG | ARFF Working Group.

Pilot injured when small plane crashes near Carrabelle Airport

ARFF Working Group - Tue, 02/06/2018 - 08:07

Franklin County officials are investigating a plane crash in the woods near the Carrabelle Airport.

The pilot, 68-year-old Gregory Newman of Carrabelle, was flown to Tallahassee in critical condition. Newman was responsive when he was found by emergency officials.

According to the Franklin County Sheriff’s Office spokeswoman Christy Thompson, the plane went down at about 11 a.m. near the airport off Coastal Highway 98.

Several people witnessed the crash of the single-seat plane and local pilot Mark Nobles took off in his own plane to aid ground crews in finding the crash site.

The Carrabelle Police Department, FCSO and Franklin County EMS located the plane and provided medical attention to Newman.

http://www.tallahassee.com/story/news/2018/02/05/small-plane-crashes-near-carrabelle-airport/308638002/?from=new-cookie

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Black Eagles jet crashes in Singapore

ARFF Working Group - Tue, 02/06/2018 - 08:05

By Kang Seung-woo
A T-50B jet of the Korean Air Force’s Black Eagles aerobatic team skidded off a runway at Singapore’s Changi Airport and caught fire during an air show, Tuesday, according to the local civil aviation authority.

“One aircraft of the Black Eagles aerobatic team from the Korean Air Force skidded and crashed into the grass verge on the side of Changi Airport’s Runway 1 and caught fire,” the Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore (CAAS) said.

The aircraft was about to take off to perform in the air show’s opening flight demonstration. The biennial aerospace event will run through Sunday.

“The aircraft was taking off for the flying display program at the air show. The Airport Emergency Service responded to the incident immediately and the fire was extinguished. The pilot sustained light injuries and is being treated,” it added.

The Korean Air Force also confirmed the accident, adding that an investigation has been launched to study the cause of the accident and potential damage.

The Black Eagles team left its base in Wonju, Gangwon Province, Jan. 26, for its third appearance at the show and arrived there three days later via Taiwan, the Philippines and Malaysia.

http://www.koreatimes.co.kr/www/nation/2018/02/205_243724.html

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NTSB: Van’s Pilot Issued ‘Mayday’ Call Prior To Accident

ARFF Working Group - Tue, 02/06/2018 - 08:02

RV-12 Went Down In Florida, Pilot Fatally Injured

The pilot of a Van’s RV-12 that went down in Bonita Springs, FL January 22 issued a “Mayday” call before the aircraft impacted terrain, according to the NTSB’s preliminary report on the accident.

According to the report, the pilot held a sport pilot certificate and was flying the SLSA aircraft which was registered to a corporation. He was fatally injured in the accident. Day, visual meteorological conditions prevailed, and no flight plan was filed for the personal flight. The flight originated at Page Field (KFMY), Fort Myers, Florida about 1200 and was destined for Everglades Airpark (X01), Everglades City, Florida.

According to preliminary air traffic control (ATC) voice communication and radar data obtained from the FAA, the flight was en route from KFMY to X01. The pilot was receiving flight following services from ATC. While on a southeasterly heading and at 2,500 ft mean sea level, the pilot was advised of traffic in his vicinity. The pilot acknowledged, and shortly after this transmission he stated, “mayday, mayday.” No additional calls were received from the pilot and radar and radio contact were lost.

The airplane went down in a forested area, about 18 nautical miles southeast of KFMY. There was no fire. The wreckage path was oriented south-southwest and was about 750 ft in length. All components of the airplane were accounted for at the accident site. Flight control continuity was confirmed from all flight control surfaces to the cockpit controls.

The pilot held a sport pilot certificate with an airplane single engine land rating. According to the FAA, he did not possess an FAA medical certificate, nor was one required to operate as a sport pilot.

The low-wing, single-engine, two-seat airplane incorporated a fixed, tricycle landing gear. The airplane was equipped with a Rotax 912-ULS 100-horsepower reciprocating engine. The engine was fitted with a Sensenich fixed-pitch composite propeller. The airplane was built in 2011. According to the airplane maintenance records, a condition inspection was completed on July 24, 2016, at 95 hours total time.

(Source: NTSB.)

FMI: app.ntsb.gov/pdfgenerator/ReportGeneratorFile.ashx?EventID=20180122X32841&AKey=1&RType=HTML&IType=FA

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Today in History

ARFF Working Group - Tue, 02/06/2018 - 08:01

22 Years ago today: On 6 February 1996 a Birgenair Boeing 757 crashed while into the sea after takeoff from Puerto Plata, Dom.Rep., killing all 189 occupants.

Date: Tuesday 6 February 1996 Time: 23:47 Type: Boeing 757-225 Operating for: Alas Nacionales Leased from: Birgenair Registration: TC-GEN C/n / msn: 22206/31 First flight: 1985 Total airframe hrs: 29269 Cycles: 13499 Engines:Rolls-Royce RB211-535E4 Crew: Fatalities: 13 / Occupants: 13 Passengers: Fatalities: 176 / Occupants: 176 Total: Fatalities: 189 / Occupants: 189 Airplane damage: Destroyed Airplane fate: Written off (damaged beyond repair) Location: 26 km (16.3 mls) NE off Puerto Plata, Dominican Republic (   Atlantic Ocean) Phase: En route (ENR) Nature: Int’l Non Scheduled Passenger Departure airport: Puerto Plata-La Union International Airport (POP/MDPP), Dominican Republic Destination airport: Gander Airport, NF (YQX/CYQX), Canada Flightnumber: ALW301

Narrative:
Flight ALW 301 departed Puerto Plata for a charter flight to Frankfurt via Gander and Berlin at 23:42 LT. At 80 knots on takeoff the captain found out that his air speed indicator (ASI) wasn’t working properly. The co-pilot’s indicator seemed to work fine. While climbing through 4700 feet the captain’s ASI read 350 knots (real speed was about 220 kts); this resulted in an autopilot/autothrottle reaction to increase the pitch-up attitude and a power reduction in order to lower the airspeed. At that time the crew got ‘Rudder ratio’ and ‘Mach airspeed’ advisory warnings. Both pilots got confused when the co-pilot stated that his ASI read 200 knots decreasing while getting an excessive speed-warning, followed by a stick shaker warning. This led the pilots to believe that both ASIs were unreliable.
Finally realizing that they were losing speed and altitude they disconnected the autopilot. The autopilot, fed by the captain’s faulty ASI, had reduced the speed close to the stall speed. Full thrust was then applied. At 23:47:17 an aural GPWS warning sounded. Eight seconds later the aircraft struck the ocean.
The incorrect ASI readings were probably caused by the obstruction of the pitot system by mud and/or debris from a small insect that was introduced in the pitot tube during the time the aircraft was on the ground. The aircraft was not flown for 20 days before the crash and was returned for service without a verification of the pitot-static system as recommended by Boeing.

Probable Cause:

PROBABLE CAUSE: “The crew’s failure to recognize the activation of the stick shaker as a warning of imminent entrance to the stall, and the failure of the crew to execute the procedures for recovery from the onset of loss of control.”

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Civilians answer mayday call in Louisiana after collapse traps captain

Statter 911 - Mon, 02/05/2018 - 23:57

Central Fire Department thanks the citizens who came to captain's rescue.

The post Civilians answer mayday call in Louisiana after collapse traps captain appeared first on Statter911.

Categories: Fire Service

Helmet-cam & radio traffic: Two-alarm garden apartment fire in Maryland

Statter 911 - Mon, 02/05/2018 - 18:45

Fire Tuesday on Hewitt Avenue in Montgomery County

The post Helmet-cam & radio traffic: Two-alarm garden apartment fire in Maryland appeared first on Statter911.

Categories: Fire Service

4 INDY FIREFIGHTERS INJURED AT APARTMENT FIRE

Firefighter Close Calls - Mon, 02/05/2018 - 16:37

Four firefighters with the Indianapolis Fire Department were injured while battling a blaze in a far-southside apartment complex Friday afternoon.

Around 100 firefighters responded to a three-alarm blaze in the 5500 block of Rue Royale in the Regency Park South Apartment complex, IFD Battalion Chief Rita Reith said in a news release.

Dispatchers received multiple reports of heavy fire coming from one of the apartments, near the intersection of Epler Avenue and Ind. 135, around 2:30 p.m.

The first units arrived on scene at 2:33 p.m. and two additional alarms calling an additional 27 units from IFD, Greenwood and Beech Grove fire departments were sounded within the next 15 minutes. Firefighters had the blaze under control by 3:06 p.m.

IFD Lt. Daniel Marden and Pvt. Matt Myers were “catching the hydrant,” or hooking a water supply line to the hydrant, when the line snared and tossed them into the air, Reith said.

Categories: Fire Service, Safety

Firefighters focus on clean air, bodies and gear to try to cut cancer risk

Firefighter Close Calls - Mon, 02/05/2018 - 16:04
Firefighters focus on clean air, bodies and gear to try to cut cancer risk

 

http://www.sandiegouniontribune.com/visuals/95598618-132.html

 

Long before he became San Diego’s fire chief, Brian Fennessy would wear his crusty, soot-covered helmet like a badge, proof he worked at one of the city’s busiest fire stations. He thought it gave him credibility and earned him the respect of peers.

Now he knows his dirty gear harbored the toxins and carcinogens that haunt the scene of a fire – and that they might well revisit him in the future as cancer.

“I figure that’s what’s going to get me,” said Fennessy, who has been a firefighter since 1978. “When I worked for the Forest Service, man, we sprayed fuel breaks with chemicals that aren’t even allowed anymore. We inhaled that stuff; we were exposed to all kinds of bad stuff.

“I figure it is just a matter of time before I’m diagnosed.”

At many fire departments around the country, chiefs like Fennessy are working to change the culture of the fire service, encouraging firefighters to take steps to better protect themselves from dangerous fumes, smoke and soot.

Cancer is the leading cause of firefighter line-of-duty deaths in the U.S., according to the International Association of Fire Fighters. In the past five years, more than 60 percent of the names added to the Fallen Fire Fighter Memorial Wall in Colorado were cancer-related deaths, the organization says. The wall lists the names of more than 7,600 fallen firefighters.

Several studies looking at the association between firefighting and cancer have found higher rates of some types of cancers in firefighters compared with the general population, including cancers involving the respiratory, digestive and urinary systems.

The largest cancer study of U.S. firefighters to date, done by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, looked at the health records of 30,000 firefighters in three U.S. cities between 1950 and 2009. It found those firefighters had a modest increase in cancer diagnoses (a 9 percent increase) and cancer-related deaths (a 14 percent increase) compared with the general population.

Such research — along with repeatedly hearing of colleagues in the fire service being diagnosed with cancer — prompted Fennessy to green-light his department’s cancer-prevention program just a few months after he was appointed San Diego’s chief in 2015.

In the 18 months since the effort began, program manager Kurtis Bennett said about a dozen employees have been diagnosed with cancer.

Fire officials say they want to see a “paradigm shift,” where firefighters will speak up if a colleague shows up wearing dirty gear.

“It’s not going to be the roof caving in on you, or falling off the ladder – that’s not going to be what kills you,” Fennessy said. “It is going to be cancer.”

Concerns about health risks aren’t new

Firefighters have long worried about how their jobs were affecting their health, although much of the early focus was on lung cancer and other respiratory ailments caused by breathing in smoke.

The dangers of soot were known way back in 1775 when it was linked to the first case of occupational cancer. A doctor noticed chimney sweeps in Britain were being stricken by a particular form of the disease.

In 1982, California became the first state in the country to adopt a presumptive law that makes it easier for firefighters to prove that their cancer is work-related, giving them access to workers’ compensation and survivor benefits for their families.

That law was prompted by the deaths in 1973 of two Whittier firefighters who responded to a hazmat incident and died of a rare form of cancer within weeks of each other six years later, said Carroll Wills of the California Professional Firefighters union.

Cancer awareness has become a priority for many firefighting agencies, addressed at professional conferences and by industry groups. A bill has twice been introduced in Congress that would create a voluntary national firefighter cancer registry, which officials say would track those diagnosed with the disease and assist future research efforts.

In 2013, the nonprofit Firefighter Cancer Support Network published an industry white paper, calling firefighter cancer “a looming personal catastrophe for each and every firefighter.” The group, which provides mentoring and assistance to firefighters who are diagnosed, declared cancer the most dangerous and unrecognized threat to the health and safety of the country’s firefighters.

The group offered tips to minimize exposure to cancer-causing substances; all of the suggestions were incorporated in San Diego’s cancer awareness and prevention program.

San Diego’s training kicks off with an emotional 8½-minute video that shares the stories of a dozen firefighters who have been diagnosed and treated for cancer. Bennett, who has trained all 900 of the department’s firefighters, said the room always gets quiet after the group watches the video.

In his sessions, Bennett warns firefighters that they can be exposed to a lifetime of toxins in a very compressed period of time, inhaling them or absorbing them into their skin.

“The key to reducing the incidence of cancer is changing our culture and changing what a professional firefighter looks like,” Bennett said. “For years, we esteemed the ‘smoke-eater’ look of soot-covered faces. That was, to some degree, killing us.”

San Diego’s fire stations are gradually being equipped with commercial-grade washing machines that can better clean dirty turnouts; they long have had equipment that vents diesel exhaust from firetrucks out of the buildings. Special wipes kept on engines allow firefighters in the field to clean their heads, necks, throats, underarms and hands before they get back to the station to shower.

Firefighters are issued two sets of protective pants and jackets so they always have access to clean ones. They are supposed to take off dirty gear as soon as possible and keep it away from where they sleep and out of personal vehicles.

Everyone has two protective hoods and captains carry spares so firefighters can change them out when they get wet or dirty.

Some departments are pursuing other methods in their quest to protect firefighters.

The Carlsbad Fire Department is outfitting four of its six stations with dry saunas and bicycles, known as chemical detox saunas. It is the second agency in California to purchase the units, said Mary Murphy, who manages emergency medical services for the department.

After a fire, Carlsbad’s firefighters will take a shower and then ride the bikes until they work up a good sweat. The idea is they’ll sweat heavy metals and other toxins out of their skin.

One firefighter who put a towel under the bike when he rode it after a fire told Murphy: “Whatever it was that came out of me was black and it was on the towel.”

Veteran firefighter Todd Bechtel, a captain in the Ocean Beach station, said he’s seeing younger colleagues embracing the safety recommendations as they go about their days. After a recent fire, everyone in his station grabbed clean turnouts before the next call.

“It’s a great program,” he said. “I believe in it. I follow it.”

Bechtel, a firefighter for 26 years, was diagnosed with prostate cancer a few years ago after a routine checkup. He underwent surgery and radiation, but recently learned his cancer has returned.

Like others, he would sleep with his pants next to his bunk, take off his mask as soon as flames were knocked down and wear his flash hood over and over without washing it. He wonders if the interrupted sleep cycles typical in a busy station and other stresses also played a role.

“When the question is asked of me, do I think it was work related, with all the stuff put in front of me, I can’t see how it wasn’t work related,” he said. “But you never know.”

Despite his concerns, for his part Fennessy said he wouldn’t discourage any of his three children if they wanted to become firefighters. But, he said, he would want them to be careful about which department they chose to work for.

“”Shame on the departments that aren’t paying attention to what’s going on in our business, in our profession right now,” he said. “I’d want my kids to be part of an organization that made taking care of their firefighters a priority.”

karen.kucher@sduniontribune.com

Categories: Fire Service, Safety

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