Orlando firefighters to receive new enhanced gear for better protection on the job

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For the first time, Orlando firefighters are getting new gear that is designed to better protect them against carcinogens while fighting fires.

The Orlando Fire Department is in the process of rolling out nearly 600 sets of gear for the entire department that feature a contaminant control package.

“In every opening there’s a protective layer put in there that avoids contaminants from being able to sneak in,” said OFD District Chief Aaron Rhodes.

Rhodes said there is also an elastic band on the back of the bunker jacket that prevents contaminants from getting onto a firefighter’s skin.

“Over the last decade there’s been a lot of groundwork done, a lot of research done about the cancer in the fire service,” Rhodes said.

The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health recently conducted two large studies about firefighter cancer and found that firefighters face a nine percent increase in cancer diagnoses and a 14 percent increase in cancer-related deaths.

Rhodes said part of the danger comes from the way furniture is made today.

“We went from wood furniture to plastic and foam and a lot of things that are made in a chemical factory and not necessarily a forest. When that happened we started to introduce a lot of those materials in the smoke that’s caused by the fires in those same occupancies.

OFD was able to customize every aspect of the new gear, which they order every five years. Rhodes said the department is one of the first fire departments in the state to include a special pocket so every firefighter can have a personal escape system with a rope and harness.

“That way when they find themselves in a predicament on an upper level floor they’re able to use that rope system and get out of the way,” he said.