• Do you have direct source control exhaust systems
(e.g., hoses connected to the truck exhaust), and
are they working and being used properly? Having
a system but not enforcing its use does nothing!
Diesel exhaust was classified as a known human
carcinogen in June 12, 2012.6
• Where do you store your PPE when it’s not being
used? Is it in a separate room vented to the outside and with closed doors, or is your gear sitting
right next to your apparatus and absorbing all the
carcinogens from their exhaust systems?
• Where are your ice machines located? Are they
being bathed with the same diesel exhaust and
subsequently being ingested into your body? Just
because you filter your water does not mean that
you filtered the carcinogens from the truck bays.
Also, just because you use it “only for our water
coolers” does not make it any safer to drink or
chill your water!
• A number of departments have implemented a fire
station design with red/yellow/green zones similar
to a hazmat response.
–All contaminated or potentially contaminated
gear is left in the red zone; this includes PPE,
tools, trucks, etc.
–The green zone is for living and sleeping quarters.
No contaminated gear is allowed within this area.
–The yellow zone is the transition zone between
green and red zones, usually a hallway or airlock
system, where air flow controls the direction of
air to the red zone.
• The Coral Springs-Parkland (FL) Fire Department
and others have implemented the “clean cab”
apparatus concept. With this design, contaminated PPE is never allowed into the cab area.
No SCBA or tools are placed in the cab; instead,
MAKE A CHANGE
they are typically located in a curbside compart-
ment. It’s a gathering point for crew members
who are briefed by the officer in charge on arrival
on scene. After firefighters are released from the
incident, they go through gross decon, as previ-
ously discussed. All PPE is bagged and sealed, and
the crews are sent back to the stations to shower
and swap into their second set of PPE. Addition-
ally, the “clean cab” concept calls for two sets of
flashlights, yellow ones for EMS and orange for
fires, that also never go in the cab.
While I fully recognize that not every one of these
methods is possible in every single department, we
must begin to make changes to reduce the numbers
of members being diagnosed with cancer. There is no
question that we have a cancer problem in the fire
service. There is no question we must revise some of
our practices. We must do something differently or
continue to lose our brother and sister firefighters—
and possibly ourselves—to cancer.
Since 2005, the nonprofit FCSN has provided
assistance and one-on-one mentoring to thousands of
cancer-stricken firefighters and their families. FCSN
also delivers extensive firefighter cancer awareness and
prevention training nationwide (
1. Daniels, Robert D, “Firefighter Cancer Rates: The Facts from
NIOSH Research,” CDC NIOSH Science Blog, May 2017, https://
2. RTI International, “Fluorescent Aerosol Screening Test (FAST)
Test Report,” January 2015, firesmoke.org/wp-content/
3. Fent KW, Alexander B, Roberts J, et al, “Contamination of firefighter personal protective equipment and skin and the effectiveness of decontamination procedures,” PubMed.gov, October 2017,
4. Palm Beach County Fire Rescue, “Post Fire on Scene Decon Confidence Burn,” You Tube, September 2017, www.youtube.com/watch?v
5. NFPA, Standard on Fire Department Occupational Safety, Health,
and Wellness Program, August 2017, http://www.nfpa.org/
6. International Agency for Research on Cancer, “IARC: Diesel Engine
Exhaust Carcinogenic,” WHO, June 2012, www.iarc.fr/en/media-
Keith Tyson, vice president of education and research for the nonprofit Firefighter Cancer Support Network, retired from Miami-Dade
(FL) Fire Rescue in 2008 after serving 34 years as a firefighter/paramedic. Within six months, he was diagnosed with prostate cancer
and skin cancer. In 2009, Tyson formed FCSN’s Florida chapter, and
he continues to serve as FCSN’s Florida state director. He has delivered FCSN’s cancer-prevention training to thousands of firefighters
in Florida and across the United States. Tyson is FCSN’s liaison to
the University of Miami Firefighter Cancer Initiative.
The Coral Springs-Parkland Fire Department stores SCBA in
exterior compartments rather than in the cab.