A local fire department is getting money from the Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation to help make their crew more safe.
The Springfield Township Volunteer Fire Department in Gallia County is one of 39 Ohio departments receiving grant money.
The BWC is awarding $377,000 in grants to “protect Ohio firefighters” in this new program.
“Our first responders deserve the best tools to protect them against the dangers of fighting a fire,” said BWC Administrator/CEO Sarah Morrison. “Those dangers include toxins and carcinogens that linger on equipment after the firefight is over. With these grants, firefighters across Ohio can purchase equipment that guards against these long-term dangers to their health.”
Springfield Township is being given $9,717.79 to buy one extractor/washer with base, 21 pairs of washable gloves and 21 barrier hoods.
“Some departments probably don’t do a whole lot of grant writing, but that’s how our department survives is on grants,” said Springfield Township VFD Steve Short. “So we can put the tax payer’s money to better use if we can get free money from places.”
Short said 2017 was the first year for this grant.
He says it’s tough for volunteer fire departments with small budgets to afford the new and latest gear, but he looks for funding anywhere possible.
“There’s several departments in this county that have to scrape and sometimes have to take money out of their own pockets to provide fuel and stuff for their trucks,” Short said.
Training over the years has taught Short that the toxic fumes at fire scenes can be dangerous, even when wearing protective gear.
“As a firefighter I always thought my gear would protect me,” Short said. “Carbon monoxide would penetrate through the gear and be absorbed into your skin and enter into your body.”
That’s why they do the best they can to minimize the danger. The grant will allow them to wash their uniforms better. It will also give each firefighter a second set of hoods and gloves. That way, if someone forgot to wash the gear or didn’t get a chance to before another call, they wouldn’t have to put contaminated garments back on.
We told you back in October of 2017, the International Association of Firefighters says cancer is now the leading cause of death for firefighters in America.
According to an NBC report this week, departments across the country are reporting elevated cancer rates.
“I’ve had it myself,” Short said.
About five years ago Short was battling prostate cancer. He can’t say for sure though that fighting fires made him sick. Before he fought blazes, he worked as a coal mine paramedic. He also says many firefighters smoke so it is difficult to pinpoint what caused the cancer. However, if finding new grants will help minimize the risk, he plans to keep making safety improvements to their gear.
Short hopes to have the gear ordered in the next few weeks and have it in use in about 45 days.