Firefighters order new hoods to block dangerous chemicals

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HUBER HEIGHTS, Ohio (WDTN) – As firefighters across the Miami Valley take more steps to stay safe while running calls, some will soon be wearing new hoods that protect the skin from chemicals that may cause cancer.

The Huber Heights Fire Division is ordering about 100 new hoods, two for each firefighter, which is being funded by a state grant.

“In this career, it’s all about longevity,” said Ryan Elifritz, a Huber Heights firefighter and paramedic. “You want to be there for as long as you can.”

And that requires keeping firefighters healthy. In Huber Heights, they have been trying on new hoods that block carcinogens from going through to the skin. They look and feel a lot like the current hoods but have a different material inside to protect each firefighter.

“I’ve known several of my buddies who have been diagnosed with cancer through the fire service,” Elifritz said. “So I’m very big in trying to get that to come down here and really bring light into that whole situation.”

Firefighters we spoke with said protecting themselves from dangerous chemicals requires several steps.

“One of the biggest things that we can do is have clean gear,” said battalion chief Keith Knisley.

That sometimes means cleaning their gear on scene and using special wipes to clean their skin, Knisley said.

The Huber Heights Fire Division also added detox saunas about a month ago, Knisley said. If firefighters are exposed to products of combustion, they work out after running the call and use the sauna to get the chemicals off their skin, he explained.

“The biggest priority that we have are our people,” Knisley said. “And we want our people to be able to have long, healthy lives when they’re done with this career. We want them to be healthy through their career, but we also want them to be healthy in retirement.”

Next, fire department leaders are going to look into possible new protections against breathing in dangerous air at certain calls over long time periods, Knisley said.

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