KANSAS CITY, Mo. — A wife of a 22-year veteran of the Kansas City Fire Department has raised nearly $50,000 to get carcinogen-extracting washing machines in all the fire stations.
Dawn Eddings started a GoFundMe and various community groups have stepped up to raise money for the machines that remove carcinogens from their bunker gear.
"If they don't take the proper steps to clean gear and hoods, those carcinogens absorb into their bodies," explained Dawn Eddings.
Studies continue to link fighting fires to cancer, which is something KCFD knows all too well.
"He was known as the best firefighter," said batallion chief of training for KCFD, Travis Williams, talking about one of his mentors who lost his battle to cancer about a year ago.
Batallion Chief Tom Byrne died of a rare form of cancer, neuroendocrine carcinoma, after 28 or 29 years on the job.
"Most doctors don't really know the signs or symptoms," explained Byrne, in a previously recorded interview. "They found the spots of cancer all through my midsection. It ended up being in my lungs, my stomach, my spleen and up and down my vertebrae in my back."
To take proactive measures, KCFD is encouraging many steps the IAFF recommends.
Those include the following:
- Wear your mask during the entire fire, including the overhaul process
- Clean everything at the scene including gear, masks, body parts, the truck and other equipment
- Use baby wipes to remove as much soot as possible from head, neck, jaw, throat, underarms and hands while on the scene
- Change your clothes and wash them immediately after a fire
- Shower thoroughly after a fire
- Clean your protective gear, gloves, hood and helmet immediately after a fire
- Do not bring contaminated clothes into a bedroom or living area. Do not store it in a vehicle.
- Clean the inside of the fire truck
- Keep bunker gear out of living and sleep quarters
- Stop using tobacco products
- Use sunscreen or sunblock
- Get annual medical examinations - early detection and treatment are essential to increase survival.
Batallion chiefs also keep a bag of clean hoods to trade out with crews at the fire.
The measure that caught Eddings' eye is washing the gear.
Right now about 1,000 firefighters use about 12 extractor washing machines. They can fit a couple bunker gear sets in a machine at one time.
These are commercial grade washers with special settings and temperatures to remove cancer-causing toxins.
"As much as it can take the heat going into a burning building, hot water damages or breaks down the integrity of the fire gear," said Williams.
Eddings is trying to raise a total of $181,000 for the 21 washing machines. After that money is collected, IAFF Local Union 42 will purchase them.
She said crews risk their lives for the public every day, so she will continue to fight for them.
"They need one right there to where they come back from a call, throw their stuff in the extractor, wait for next call, then put their clean stuff on," said Eddings.
Eddings said she may start a non-profit at a later time.