COLUMUBS (WCMH) — Startling numbers show that firefighters are at risk even after the fire is extinguished.
One in ten Columbus firefighters are diagnosed with cancer. The toxins and chemicals from burning plastic, along with smoke, seeped through their protective suits.
Rookie firefighter Aaron Richnavsky looks forward to getting to work.
“It’s a good comradery,” he said. “We help a lot of people every day. You never know what the day is going to have.”
While he loves the job, he faces a lot of dangers, including cancer. An alarming number of firefighters are being diagnosed with various kinds of cancer. The ashes, chemicals, smoke, and other debris seeps into their protective suits. Ultimately, once their bodies are exposed to residue, cancer can grow and develop at any point in their bodies.
“We would always hear stories of guys who had responded to these big industrial fires,” said Captain Roggenkamp. “Four of them got cancer as soon as they retired.”
“It’s become one of the recognized hazards of the job anymore,” Roggenkamp said as an alarm in the firehouse sounded. “We may have to go.”
The crews stand at the ready when they get the call. Now the state is ready for them when and if the cancer call comes for the crews. Governor John Kasich signed the “Cancer Bill 27” earlier this year. It recognizes that cancer in firefighters is a work related illness. This enables the firefighters to get compensation for diagnosis, treatment, and rehabilitation.
During the month of February, NBC4 will take a close look at who this new law affects and what is being done to protect the men and women of the Columbus Fire Department.