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West Lafayette Fire Department invests in special washing machine

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. (WLFI) – What looks like an average washing machine, could actually help save the lives of those serving on the West Lafayette Fire Department.

“It is kind of a shock that we’re exposed to a lot more cancer causing elements than what we thought,” West Lafayette firefighter Justin Taylor said.

While masks provide protection to the lungs, department Training Instructor Eric Doyle said multiple studies are showing high rates of cancer in firefighters.

Not because of what it is they’re breathing in, but because of what’s being left behind on their gear.

“We’re going into the smoke and the smoke is filled with these cancer causing materials that are basically attaching themselves to our gear and absorbing into our skin,” explained Doyle.

The department is hoping an investment in a specialized washing mashing will prevent that.

“We can now clean this gear that we’re wearing into a fire that’s exposed to carcinogens and other types of bad materials in the fire that we, in the past, couldn’t remove,” Doyle added.

Not only does the machine rid the gear of the carcinogens that could lead to cancer, it also prolongs the life of the equipment while giving peace of mind to the firefighters.

“If we’re sick and have cancer and doing treatments, then we’re not going to be able to do our job,” said Taylor. “We’re not going to be able to go home to our families at the end of the day.”

Before crews leave the scene, gear is scrubbed with cleaner, hosed down and bagged before firefighters head back to the station.

Baby wipes help clean smoke covered areas on the skin.

Taylor said all West Lafayette stations practice the same safety procedures, but they go to West Lafayette Fire Station No. 3 to use the special washer.

“We just want to make sure that we’re all aware of the procedures that we need to take to prolong our career and prolong our life after retirement,” said Taylor.

Simple procedures and a small investment to protect those who put their lives on the line.