WICHITA FALLS (KFDX/KJTL) Most of us don’t have to think twice about the quality of air we breathe at home or at work. However, for firefighters having to breathe in smoke-filled air or worse is one of the dangers of the job.
“I’m probably going to die of cancer.”
It’s a stark reality, but Wichita Falls Assistant Fire Chief Donald Hughes knows it’s part of being a first responder in some of the most hazardous life-threatening rescues.
Hughes said he does his best to stay on top of his health.
“I’m checked every year, pretty much, at least for all the blood-work wise that I can do,” Hughes said. “Colonoscopies, things like that.”
Breathing in fumes while fighting fires is one thing. Trying to keep them out of the station is another. To help improve his and his fellow firefighter’s survival rates, Hughes and former firefighter and current Wichita Falls City Councilor Bobby Whiteley are working to get budget funding for ventilation systems for fire stations one and two.
In station one for example, the living area is just steps away from where vehicles are kept, allowing fumes and whatever clings to the firefighters to come back into the station. Stations one and two are the oldest in the city and until recently, Whiteley said cancer and other particulates weren’t thought to be a big health concern.
“When Donald and I started in the fire service, the number one killer of firefighters was cardiac,” Whiteley said. “There are so many studies that show that we lose more firefighters now to cancer and believe or not to PTSD than we do to fire-related deaths.
If all goes according to plan and with approval, those who save lives will be able to breathe easier and live for many more years.
Until that happens, Hughes said extractors or high powered washing machines, already bought and paid for, able to get dangerous chemicals out of firefighter’s gear, will be installed at stations one and two soon.