VIDEO: How this mask is helping area firefighters stay alive


As two firefighters strapped into their full-body gear and respiratory equipment Thursday, plumes of grey, particle-dense smoke blew out of a window and into the face of the engine driver.

Before, the drivers would have sat and breathed in the smoke. Now, they’ll attach a small half-mask to their nose and mouth to help them avoid toxins.

What cancer risks do firefighters face? Palm Beach County part of national study seeking answers

“In the past, that guy was just sitting there. He didn’t have any airway protection and the smoke would have just wafted over him,” said Capt. Albert Borroto, Palm Beach County Fire Rescue spokesman. 

The agency will be the first fire department in the nation to use half-masks in the “warm zone,” or the about 100 feet outside the source of a fire where there’s still known carcinogens in the air, said fire-safety specialist Tara Cardoso. 

“It adds an extra layer of protection,” she said.


 

Firefighters outside the “immediate danger to life and health” — or IDTLH — zone will be encourage to wear the masks, Cardoso said. A captain on scene will use a monitor that tests five gases in the air to determine when firefighters should put on the masks, which can be slid on and off once attached to the back of the head.

The masks, designed by 3M, are typically used by painters or people who spray pesticides, said Battalion Chief Bob Kropa. Each of the nearly 1,400 firefighters with the department will get a mask, at the price of about $30 a firefigher, Kropa said. 

Kropa said the department has been testing the masks for about a year after a study conducted with the University of Miami Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center revealed the dangers of long-term exposure to particles outside the immediate fire. 


 

He said the masks will help firefighters, who typically work an average of 30 years, avoid the long-term effects of slow smoke inhalation that puts them at a 30 to 60 percent higher risk of some blood cancers.

Kropa said he imagines it’ll soon be an industry standard, and other large departments in Florida, such as Miami-Dade Fire Rescue and Jacksonville Fire and Rescue, are looking into the use as well.

The costs of the mask are small in comparison to the cost to treat some of the common cancers, like multiple myeloma. The treatment for that cancer can be about $100,000, he said.

“The department decided we’re going to go with prevention instead of reaction,” he said.


Reader Comments ...


Next Up in Local

Wellington game shooting: Too close for one family in more than one way
Wellington game shooting: Too close for one family in more than one way

It all started with a cryptic text from their daughter. “I’m safe,” Hope Lerman had written to her parents, defense attorney Gregg Lerman and his wife, Debra. “I’m with Coach Pagley.” It was Friday night, and the Lermans had expected their daughter home late from one of the most highly anticipated football games...
UPDATE: Fuel tanker rolls over, injures 2 and shuts down I-95 lanes in Lake Worth
UPDATE: Fuel tanker rolls over, injures 2 and shuts down I-95 lanes in Lake Worth

7:30 P.M. UPDATE: According to Palm Beach County Fire Rescue, the rollover crash involved a fuel tanker. Two people were injured and transported to a hospital by helicopter. All lanes were reported to be open. 7:05 P.M. UPDATE: According to Palm Beach County Fire Rescue, the rollover crash involved a fuel tanker. Two people were injured and...
Shooting at high school football game not a ‘school’ shooting
Shooting at high school football game not a ‘school’ shooting

Detectives are still piecing together what really happened amid the pandemonium after a shooting at the Palm Beach Central-Dwyer high school football game Friday night. But they, school officials, parents and students alike by Saturday had all reached the same conclusion about the incident: it was not a “school” shooting. One or both of...
Wellington game shooting: Pre-K teacher huddles with teens in lockdown
Wellington game shooting: Pre-K teacher huddles with teens in lockdown

WELLINGTON – The moment pre-K teacher Britt Downey was ushered into a room by the front offices of Palm Beach Central High School late Friday, hours of code-red lockdown drills kicked in. Downey, who teaches students with autism at Loxahatchee Groves Elementary School, wound up under a desk in a room along with six teenage girls after shots were...
Florida man, 88, allegedly set raccoon on fire for eating his mangoes
Florida man, 88, allegedly set raccoon on fire for eating his mangoes

An 88-year-old man was arrested Friday for allegedly setting a raccoon on fire for eating mangoes in his yard in Palm Bay, WKMG-TV reports.  Ezra James told authorities he was afraid the raccoon would bite him and give him rabies, said WKMG.  A neighbor called 911 as the raccoon burned alive. "I throw some gasoline on him and I...
More Stories