New NHC Fire Rescue truck seeks to further protect firefighters from dangerous chemicals

Station 12 of New Hanover County Fire Rescue replaced their 20-year-old truck with a new one that includes features that can make a big difference after fightin
Published: Feb. 15, 2023 at 11:53 AM EST
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WILMINGTON, N.C. (WECT) - One of the leading causes of death for firefighters is cancer, often caused by exposure to toxic chemicals that they may face while responding to a fire.

Harmful chemicals put firefighters at an additional risk when they’re serving the community, but recent initiatives are hoping to protect them from these dangers.

Station 12 of New Hanover County Fire Rescue replaced their 20-year-old truck with a new one that includes features that can make a big difference after fighting fires.

The new truck contains a special storage compartment on the outside that is used to transport contaminated gear back to the station after a fire.

The firefighters are required to place their turnout gear in the unit after each fire, before entering the clean apparatus cab. Dangerous chemicals and toxins can cover the gear during a fire, and by keeping them in one specific spot, this helps stop the spread within other parts of the truck.

“The idea is to isolate the gear when the firefighters take that protective equipment off or protective clothing. They store it in a compartment on the truck for when they return to the station. At the fire station, they have the equipment and the ability to clean those contaminants off,” said Deputy Fire Chief Frank Meyer of New Hanover County Fire Rescue.

Inside the clean apparatus cab, there are updates and changes to the seats, doors, ventilation system and all interior floors.

The seats and interior of the door in the old truck used to have a cloth material, which could easily absorb toxins. Now, it’s a different material that is easier to clean. The new doors are also easier to wipe down and disinfect for toxins.

“These seats are currently covered with a non-porous material that is easy to clean compared to older style fire apparatus that had fabric seats. Liquids and aerosols that contaminated the gear could be absorbed in those materials and they would provide a chronic exposure for firefighters every time they got in and sat in the seat,” said Deputy Fire Chief Meyer.

Controlled air quality is another major change to the truck. The new ventilation system circulates the air in a certain way that prevents the toxins from being pulled into the clean cab.

Overall, everything in the clean apparatus cab can now be easily cleaned and is made from materials that don’t absorb toxins, which will help improve each firefighter’s safety and health.

In December of 2022, President Joe Biden signed the The Protecting Firefighters from Adverse Substances (PFAS) Act to further provide resources to firefighters. The legislation helps prevent exposure to per-and polyfluoroalkyl substances, also known as “forever chemicals,” by providing the best training and practices for the ones who put their lives on the line. It includes additional training and educational programs for firefighters across the country.