MYRTLE BEACH, SC (WBTW) – There’s no doubt the flames firefighters battle everyday are dangerous, but it’s what is in the air during those fires that can be deadly down the road.
The Myrtle Beach Fire Department knows this firsthand.
“We’ve actually had five active-duty firefighters that were diagnosed with cancer in the past five years. We just had a firefighter diagnosed not even a month ago, so it’s a real epidemic in the fire service, and it’s something that we want to minimize the risk to our employees,” Fire Chief Tom Gwyer with MBFD said.
The department is taking the first steps to protect their firefighters with near gear that is designed to help keep them safe from carcinogens.
The Myrtle Beach Fire Department is the first in the state to have it.
The gear has protective bands around the wrists, waists and ankles that helps block out the cancer-causing materials so they can’t get on a firefighter’s skin.
“The fuel that’s burning, that was burning, creates cancerous gases and that’s the study behind everything and that’s the focus of prevention,” Chris Catalano, Territory Manager with NAFECO, the company who helps make the gear.
21 Myrtle Beach firefighters received the first sets of gear on Tuesday. Each one costs around $2,500, $600 more than their old gear, but the department hopes the investment will be worth it in the long run.
The fire department says they’re looking to order more within the next few months. When those arrive, around 40 percent of the city’s firefighters will have the new gear.
The department’s goal is to have everyone in the new gear within the next few years.