Joplin firefighters face more dangers than just fire and smoke

Firefighters face a number of obvious dangers: the flames, the risk of the building collapsing, the smoke, but there’s also something more.

You have a fire, so you call 911. The men and women of the Joplin Fire Department respond. They take care of the flames, but there’s other dangers they’re watching for as well. Joplin Fire Chief Jim Furgerson says “So all of our stations have a diesel exhaust system of some type, whether it’s an air scrubber or a direct system that hooks up to the ventilation and sucks those fumes out, we also encourage our men and women to decon on fire scenes, whether that’s spraying off all the grime, the soot, things like that on scene.”

Joplin Fire Chief Jim Furgerson says the decontamination on scene, is something the department just started doing, to help combat the risk of cancer. Joplin firefighter Jeff Wright says “Cancer is obviously a risk, whenever you become a firefighter you know that, so, sure, the things we can do to prevent that, I’m all for it.”

Jeff Wright has called the fire department home for the past three years. “Personally, it’s not something that I worry about, but, it is in the back of my mind knowing it is a possibility.”

He’s not focused on cancer, Wright says he focuses on fighting fires, and saving lives. But JFD procedures focus on keeping it’s firefighters lives safe. Wright says “We do a physical every year and they check us for some of that stuff.”

Wright says he knows cancer is a hidden danger the public can’t see, but he knows the department, fights to keep him safe. “We do a lot of training, and we train to make sure we’re doing everything the safest way possible.”

Despite the dangers, Wright says he’ll keep running in, and putting out the fires.

Chief Furgerson says the department’s screenings have caught two cancer cases in recent years.


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