ROCKLAND, Mass. - Some local first responders are turning to the public to help protect them form getting cancer on the job, saying they need a new building and a new set of gear as soon as possible.
On the South Shore in Rockland, there are 27 firefighters. A smaller department, but not immune to the cancer issue. Some members have been diagnosed and now they're hoping the public can help.
The fire department in Rockland has been standing since 1939 and while it's structurally safe, it's taking a toll on the firefighters health because it is so compact.
"We got a fire that's a toxic soup, the smoke that we're in, we're bringing that contamination back into the station," said Rockland Fire Chief Scott Duffey.
Many of the newer fire stations, like one being built in Charlestown, are keeping living quarters separate from where the fire trucks are.
Not in Rockland.
"We're right around the corner eating food, sitting in the office there and it's really we're sitting in the hot zone basically the whole time we're sitting here," said Fire Captain Jason Fricker.
Chief Duffey showed Boston 25 News the other and perhaps bigger concern; the gear for the 27 firefighters that was made in 2005. Industry standards call for gear to be replaced within ten years in an effort to minimize being exposed to years of toxic chemicals and potential exposure to occupational cancer.
"Having to worry about getting sick is something we shouldn't have to do. We shouldn't have to worry about it," said Duffey.
Only some of the firefighters have a second set of gear. That means those with just one set are constantly washing their gear, hoping it dries before the next fire call.
"If it's in the wash, then they're either scrambling to borrow someone else's gear or they run down quick and get it out. And it's not safe to be going into a fire with wet gear," said Duffey.
The fire department plans to ask taxpayers for a second set of gear for everyone which would cost $70,000. As firefighters put it, that's a drop in the bucket compared to the cost of medical bills for those who get cancer from years on the job.
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