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Cancer is the leading cause of death among firefighters

January is Firefighter Cancer Awareness Month
Published: Jan. 11, 2022 at 5:45 PM CST
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WAUSAU, Wis. (WSAW) - Seventy-Five percent of firefighters added to the IAFF Fallen Firefighter Memorial died from cancer associated with the job from 2015 to 2020.

According to the CDC, cancer is the leading cause of death among firefighters. Local stations are working hard to combat that. One way they do that is through decontamination showers.

Decontamination steam shower at the Wausau Fire Department
Decontamination steam shower at the Wausau Fire Department(wsaw)

“A firefighter can get in the steam shower and it will go up to 140 degrees and it will get the carcinogens out of your pours,” said Jeremy Kopp, Deputy Chief, Wausau Fire Department.

They also use fire wipes, air packs, and steam cleaners as other forms of protection from harmful chemicals. They use a washing machine extractor to clean their gear.

The washing machine extractor that the Wausau Fire Department uses to clean their gear.
The washing machine extractor that the Wausau Fire Department uses to clean their gear.(wsaw)

“There used to be this badge of honor of having a dirty helmet or having dirty gear because you were out there doing the job,” said Josh Klug, Merrill Fire Chief.

As more research has been done over the years, Klug said that mindset changed. The team will hold each other accountable so they can stay healthy.

“We really want to see our firefighters go home at the end of their shift and at the end of their career in one piece,” said Klug.

Merrill Fire Department fire truck
Merrill Fire Department fire truck(wsaw)

Firefighters have a short life expectancy. Klug said many who enter retirement don’t get to enjoy much of it. One of his family members who also is a firefighter had to retire early because of cancer.

“For me, it kinda hits near and dear, close to home because of having a personal connection, a cousin that had cancer because of this job,” said Klug.

He’s one of many.

“Everybody knows somebody in the fire service that’s been touched by it,” said Klug.

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