Mesquite, TX – August 13, 2020 – The City of Mesquite continues to do all it can to protect its firefighters with additional equipment, improved operations, and new facilities. During the past two years, Mesquite has invested more than $400,000 in a focused cancer prevention initiative to improve the health and safety of its firefighters.
Mesquite Fire Chief Mark Kerby said, “The protection of our firefighters is essential. They must know that they have the best possible equipment and training available to perform their job. Today, firefighters have a higher rate of cancer than the average citizen due to the dangers of their job. Mesquite is doing everything it can to reduce those dangers.” According to the National Fire Protection Association, firefighters face a nine percent increase in cancer diagnoses, and a 14 percent increase in cancer-related deaths, compared to the average person in the United States.
In 2018, Mesquite began a strategic and comprehensive program to improve firefighter health and safety. A key component of this program was purchasing back-up bunker gear so that every firefighter has two sets for every 24-hour shift. As of this summer, every Mesquite firefighter assigned to an operational position has been provided a second set of bunker gear that is sized specifically for them. If one set of gear is worn in a fire during the shift, they can use their second set of gear while it is being cleaned, reducing their exposure to the carcinogens encountered at the earlier fire scene. Each of the City’s seven fire stations now has a specialized industrial laundry machine (extractor), uniquely engineered to remove the cancer-causing carcinogens from bunker gear.
The City’s efforts to keep firefighters safe from exposure to carcinogens does not stop with cleaning bunker gear. In 2020, Mesquite became one of three municipal fire departments in Texas to acquire a SOLO Rescue Decon Washer to clean SCBA (self-contained breathing apparatus) equipment for every firefighter involved in a fire incident. This machine allows for more thorough, efficient and safe cleaning of SCBAs than could be achieved through cleaning the SCBAs by hand, and it can also be used to clean additional firefighting equipment. This includes the boots, helmets and gloves worn by each firefighter. Additionally, Mesquite’s fire station bays have special exhaust capture and ventilation systems for their vehicles. This equipment attaches to the exhaust pipes of the Department’s trucks, engines and ambulances. It allows for the proper and safe collecting and venting cancer-causing vehicle fumes away from the firefighters in the enclosed areas as they leave the station and return from incidents.
The Mesquite City Council has invested in additional resources, equipment and facilities to keep Mesquite firefighters safe. They budgeted about $260,000 for 119 sets of new bunker gear, invested $110,000 to install bunker gear extractors in all fire stations, and bought the SCBA cleaner for $30,000. Additionally, the City planned for additional layers of safety when they built a new fire station.
New Fire Station #4, which was opened this year, was constructed on a budget of $5.8 million and includes major innovations and enhanced safety and health amenities for the firefighters. The 13,989 square-foot station features specially designed air-lock entry areas that prevent carcinogens from entering the living quarters from the station bay. Additionally, the station has special showers located immediately off the bay for firefighters to use if needed, to keep contaminates outside the station living quarters.
The City of Mesquite’s three-step process of cleaning protective clothing, scrubbing the breathing equipment and reducing exposure to carcinogens in its fire station bays and living quarters has placed the Mesquite Fire Department as one the leaders in firefighter safety in Texas.
City Manager Cliff Keheley declared, “Safety innovation is an investment in our people. Anything we can do to provide a safer work environment for our firefighters is a benefit to the entire community. They keep us safe, and we need to keep them safe.”