Kits help to rid carcinogens from uniforms of state firefighters


Battalion Chief Eric Hawkins always knew he wanted to be a firefighter.

“Since I was in high school I wanted to be a firefighter,” Hawkins said. “I think it’s the calling of serving others.”

So 17 years ago, when the call came from the Cape Coral Fire Department, it was a no-brainer.

“Cape Coral’s my home,” Hawkins said.

But every day, when his team suits up, they know the job is more than just fighting fires.

“We throw in the effects of hazardous gases, carcinogens, the particulates in the smoke is what’s so deadly to us after the fire,” Hawkins said.

In fact, those carcinogens cause cancer, possibly more deadly than the flames.

Chief Financial Officer and State Fire Marshal Jimmy Patronis says the cancer rate among firefighters is 15 percent higher than the general population.

Nationally, 70 percent of firefighters who died in the line of duty in 2016 died of cancer, according to Patronis.

“Unfortunately firefighters have died from cancer here in the City of Cape Coral,” Hawkins said.

That’s why the state is partnering with the University of Miami’s Sylvester Cancer Center to distribute decontamination kits to fire departments.

The kits contain detergents, scrub brushes, spray bottles, and garden hoses to clean firefighters’ gear and keep cancer-causing toxins out of the firehouse.

A new idea to potentially save the lives of the people who save ours.

“Where your dirty helmet used to be a badge of honor … now your clean gear is a badge of honor,” Hawkins said.

The state plans to distribute 4,200 kits to more than 400 Florida fire departments in the coming weeks.

The Fort Myers Fire Department ordered theirs and told WINK News they should get them any day now.

Copyright ©2024 Fort Myers Broadcasting. All rights reserved.

This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed without prior written consent.