Firefighters don’t think twice about helping and taking care of others … that is until it comes to themselves.

They rarely think about their personal health.

But others are watching out for them, for their safety not only short-term, but long-term too.

Firefighter safety, as you may know by now, is something I am passionate about after my dad, a firefighter for 32 years, passed away from job-related cancer.

We’ve talked about how firefighters are at higher risk of developing several types of cancer.

Slowly but surely the mentality is changing within these departments.

One of the main things is their gear and making sure it’s doing its job protecting them on the outside and inside.

“As anyone knows in the fire service, we’re deep rooted in tradition but one of those traditions is dying young and we’re trying to get rid of that tradition and would like guys to live longer and have happy retirement,” Captain Justin Sinnett of the Littleton Fire Department said.

Change is something that’s not easy in the fire service.

But I think all of them would agree that something needs to be done

The Littleton Fire Department just took a big step in protecting its firefighters.

“What we recently purchased is a hood that blocks cancer-causing carcinogens and particulates from transferring into out neck and eventually our blood stream,” Sinnett said.

For decades, they have worn single-layer hoods, which only blocked 26 percent of those carcinogens from entering the system.

“[In a] traditional hood and you can see that it does not have a particulate filter and you can see light comes right through,” Sinnett said.

And that light represents how easy it is for carcinogens to get into the body.

Here’s another example: The image on the left shows a firefighter before exposure, on the right after.



That exposure, repeated for decades, is what’s taking firefighters out -- many at very young ages.

“A lot of guys will say you shower and four days later your hair still smells smoke, you still have it in your system and your body is still trying to release those particulates,” Sinnett said. 

Cutting down on those particulates is the first step and that’s what these new hoods do. They block 99 percent of carcinogens.

The Littleton Fire Department splurged on these hoods for every single one of their 160 firefighters at a cost four times more than the original hood, but Sinnett says it’s entirely worth it.

“It’s 100 percent worth it and I would say my wife and my family agree,” he said.

Sinnett says his hope is that these new hoods become standard all fire departments.