Firefighters undergo extensive decontamination process after blaze
Firefighters can be exposed to around 70 million different types of chemicals over job lifetime
Whether it's a fire with heavy smoke or one caused by a pot on a stove, firefighters in Waterloo region undergo a multi-step, hour-long decontamination process after returning from the scene of a blaze.
Years of research, including a recent paper by the University of Ottawa, has warned of the dangerous toxins firefighters can absorb at the scene of a fire.
Some of those chemicals include benzene, hydrogen cyanide and carbon monoxide.
Schubert said many of the chemicals are found in modern furnishings in our homes and exposure can happen when fighting a fire from the inside or outside of a structure, and even after the flames have been extinguished.
"They're often exposed to toxins and chemicals during firefighting operations. In addition when they are performing rescue operations where they actually have to go into a dwelling or structure," said Schubert.
"They're exposed after the fact when they're taking off their bunker gear. And then we have our fire prevention officers who are conducting the investigations after a fire who are also exposed."
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The cleaning process
Fully decontaminating equipment and gear can take up to an hour and all firefighters go through the multi-step decontamination process, which includes:
- Placing all protective equipment that's been exposed to toxins in a plastic bag before re-entering the cabin in the fire truck.
- Returning all contaminated equipment, such as fire hoses, to the rear of the fire truck, separate from the crew cabin.
- Using wet wipes to clean their head, neck, face, and armpits to remove surface toxins.
- Showering after responding to a fire.
- Cleaning and laundering their protective jacket, pants, helmets and goggles to get rid of any toxins.
- Cleaning the carpet and seats in the fire truck cabin at least once a month.