United Goodyear Fire Fighters (Arizona) Local 4005 and the Goodyear Fire Department are taking a proactive approach to preventing cancer among fire fighters. The most recent steps include building new fire stations designed to prevent carcinogens from drifting into the living quarters and installing special decontamination washers for equipment.
“Local 4005, fire department management and the city administration are making great strides to keep fire fighters safe on the job,” says 10th District Vice President Steve Gilman, who is a member of Local 4005. “Our members are exposed to carcinogens every day. It is critical that we do everything we can to prevent them from being inhaled or absorbed into the body.”
In recent years, cancer cases began to rise within the Goodyear Fire Department. Local 4005 member Austin Peck’s diagnosis of sinonasal undifferentiated carcinoma (SNUC), a rare form of cancer that attacks the nasal passages, was particularly heartbreaking.
Peck’s cancer was so rare that there was very little research or treatment options available, so he had relocated to California for treatment. The SNUC grew so rapidly that the treatment could not keep up. In August 2019, Peck became the department’s first line-of-duty death when he lost his battle cancer.
“We didn’t want to see any more of our members get sick due to on-the-job exposures, so we worked with management and the city to implement some preventative measures,” says Local 4005 President Dan Freiberg. “My hope is that these measures will save some lives.”
The first steps included procuring two sets of turnout gear for every fire fighter and keeping dirty gear out of the fire apparatus cabs.
The Goodyear City Council in December 2019 approved funding to build two new fire stations designed to make the decontamination process more efficient and to prevent potentially cancer-causing materials from contaminating the living quarters. Both have opened and the city is currently planning to build a third.
Each area of the fire stations is marked red, yellow or green. Red is the area where fire fighters enter after being on a fire where they shower and clean gear. The green area is the living quarters where no dirty gear is allowed. The yellow zone is the transition area between the red and green zones.
In both new fire stations and the Goodyear Fire Resource Management Building, Solo Rescue Decon Washers have been installed to decontaminate air tanks, helmets, boots, gloves and facemasks. Goodyear is the only city in the southwestern United States to have access to these washers.
“It’s a more prescribed wash, so we’re really ensuring we’re getting all of the contaminants off their equipment,” says Goodyear Fire Chief Paul Luizzi. “We want to keep our fire fighters healthy and safe. We want them to not be exposed to any carcinogens, and we’ve taken that very seriously.”
Goodyear Local 4005 and the City of Goodyear plan to use the colored zone decontamination format in all future fire stations.