FRESNO COUNTY, Calif. (KSEE) – January is Firefighter Cancer Awareness Month. There have been nearly 30 cancer claims within the last ten years at the Fresno Fire Department.

These types of numbers are alarming and now, the department has taken extra steps to protect its crews from cancer risks. They’ve created a new health and wellness position that includes cancer screenings, ultrasounds, and more. 

One of the tools used to help firefighters protect themselves is a stainless steel washer, called an extractor.

“They’re specially made to remove these dangerous carcinogens from firefighter gear,” explained Fresno Fire spokesperson Jonathan Lopez.

They are now a common sight throughout fire stations within the Fresno Fire Department.

“Occupational cancer has become the number one firefighter line of duty deaths in the country, I think it accounts for about two-thirds,” said Lopez.

They are just one of the steps that the department has taken to help prevent cancer in their firefighters.

“We’re trying to raise awareness about cancer in the fire service,” Lopez said.

According to the Firefighter Cancer Support Network, firefighters are at a much greater risk for cancer.

“This is all carried through the smoke, and it sticks to our firefighter protective gear that we call turnouts,” explained Lopez.

This is due to the types of fires they are dealing with.

“All sorts of man-made materials, synthetic fibers, plastics, petroleum chemicals that give off cancer-causing carcinogens,” Lopez said.

Firefighter Cancer Prevention Month’s goal is to raise awareness about the threat the disease poses and how crews can protect themselves.

“They owe it to themselves, they owe it to their families to really make their best efforts so that they don’t fall victim to this terrible disease,” said Lopez.