Wake County launches campaign to ignite awareness of firefighter cancer

Video series debuts as part of Firefighter Cancer Awareness Month

Firefighter occupational cancer is the leading cause of line-of-duty death in the fire service. Unfortunately, many firefighters and their loved ones are still unaware of their level of risk and the best ways to prevent exposure to cancer-causing toxins. Wake County Fire Services and Emergency Management’s new video series and awareness campaign aims to change that.

“Firefighters risk their lives every day to keep our community safe. By promoting firefighter cancer awareness and advocating for preventative measures, we are working in some small way to protect them in return,” says Wake County Board of Commissioners Chair Shinica Thomas. “It is important to me that Wake County lead the charge in this initiative, not to only honor their sacrifices but also to strengthen the resilience of our firefighting community.”

The series launched this month as part of Firefighter Cancer Awareness Month, an initiative by the International Association of Fire Fighters. The first video highlights the history of safety protocols in the fire service.

Decades ago, when many now seasoned firefighters were at the start of their careers, occupational cancer was not a known concern. Firefighters took pride in the smoke and soot on their gear, viewing it as a metaphorical battle scar that demonstrated their courage and level of experience. They had no idea that this badge of honor could lead to serious health complications in the future.

Part 2 of the video series, which debuted on Jan. 12, leaps forward in time with subject matter expert Chief Keith Wilder of the Raleigh Fire Department. Wilder speaks about current research that shows the dangers those in the fire service face.

Part 3 will go live Friday, Jan. 19, and feature heartfelt testimony from those whose lives have been impacted by firefighter occupational cancer.

The video series will continue through the end of January, with the final part released on Jan. 26.

Taking action
Awareness and advocacy are the first steps to real change. This video series is just one way that local leaders are working to make firefighter cancer prevention a priority in Wake County and beyond.

Wake County is also investing in new policies, procedures and equipment to protect our firefighters. A few of these initiatives include:

  • Purchase of a second set of turnout gear for firefighters.
  • Implementation of a hood replacement program so firefighters never have to wear a dirty hood.
  • Investments in state-of-the-art air return systems in fire stations to remove toxins from the air.
  • Implementation of the "Clean Cab" protocol: no dirty equipment or clothing inside the cab of the truck.
  • Strategic engineering of new fire stations providing a dedicated dirty room for processing dirty equipment while ensuring the rest of the fire station stays clean from contaminants.

“Firefighter cancer is preventable, and we have a responsibility to act,” said Darrell Alford, director, Wake County Fire Services and Emergency Management. “We hope this campaign sparks conversations that lead to real change in the fire service.”

Learn more about Wake County's efforts to prevent firefighter cancer and view the videos as they are released at wake.gov/fire cancer.

Press Release