GRAND VALLEY, Colo. (KREX) — Firefighters battle an increased chance of nine different types of cancer while doing their job, including testicular cancer and multiple myeloma. Firefighter Cancer Awareness Month focuses on the scope of the problem, which the Grand Junction Fire Department takes with a hands-on approach at all times.
“We’ve upgraded a lot of our stations to remove carbon monoxide from our exhaust systems,” Grand Junction Fire Department’s Ellis Thompson-Ellis notifies, “We’ve implemented new procedures to make sure that decontamination is happening after every single fire to reduce the exposures to carcinogens.”
Oncologists provide education on firefighter cancer all year long. A smoke-free lifestyle is a start to lowering risk, but oncologist Alicia Swink prescribes early detection check-ups for all firefighters.
“If a firefighter chooses to, they should be able to begin colorectal cancer screening at age 40 which is, in general, several years, a decade earlier than the average population,” Alicia Swink, M.D. mentions.
Chief Charles Balke says he creates a culture that prioritizes health for the Clifton Fire Protection District. Minimizing exposure to carbon monoxide goes from a clean cab to isolating contaminated gear.
“None of the personnel wear their uniforms because we don’t want any cross-contamination with anything,” Chief Charles Balke informs, “We do a wet decon wash ourselves down from any of the smoke and heavy soot and everything during or after a fire event.”
Fire stations across the valley are using the best practices to help departments reduce risk. St. Mary’s Oncology wants every firefighter to be equipped with knowledge.
“There’s no dumb question,” Alicia Swink, M.D. assures, “You’re not gonna be made to feel like you’re overreacting we want to do our best to keep you safe and you truly are your best advocate
Clifton Fire Protection District is in the middle of applying for health and safety grants to get more equipment to help enhance their cancer prevention protocol.