Duluth, MN (NNCNOW.com) - After a day battling smoke and flames on the front lines, firefighters return home often saturated in toxic chemicals.
"Fires are dirty," said Captain Andy Golz with the Duluth Fire Department. "We're getting soot and char all over our gear and the smoke, it just kind of permeates in your skin, hair and the clothes you're wearing. It's got carcinogens all over."
The best thing firefighters can do is get the cancer-causing substance off as soon as possible. But that isn't always easy, since washers and dryers are in short supply.
"I bring my stuff home after a fire, and my wife yells at me, I'm not allowed to put it in our actual bedroom where the hamper is. I have to bring it down to the laundry room right away because the smell is so thick and pungent after a fire," Capt. Golz said.
The approval of a $219,000 dollar FEMA grant by Duluth City Council on Monday changes all that..
The grant pays for a pair of commercial washers and dryers along with a decontamination station for each of the eight fire stations throughout Duluth.
"We take exposure, to everything that we do on the job, very seriously. Certainly blood- borne pathogens, and other bodily fluids that our personal may be exposed to, or biological agents, such as the bed bugs, we want to keep that at the station," said Deputy Fire Chief Charlie Smith.
Deputy Chief Smith says the new equipment adds another critical layer of protection, not only from fires, but from medical calls as well.
"We don't want our firefighters having to bring it home to their families, and launder the uniforms there. We don't want them to spread it to other stations."
The grant also includes money for three new sets of extrication equipment, replacing equipment that's about 20 years old.