- Created on Saturday, 02 February 2002 12:33
- Written by Haley Jorgensen
“Fighting fires in dirty gear used to be “cool,” says Bob Carter, Fire Chief of the Hudson, Ohio Fire, Department. “Today we know it’s not. Hosing down fire-protection gear and scrubbing it with a long handled brush doesn’t cut it anymore.”Fire contaminants on soiled turnout gear can expose firefighters to cancer-causing carcinogens, biohazards and contaminants -- while weakening the gear meant to protect them. The pants, jacket, gloves, hood, helmet and boots that make up such protective gear, are designed to keep firefighters safe in environments reaching 400-1000 degrees, according to Carter. “If there is a fabric breakdown,” he says, “you have a potential for burns or death.” That’s why the Fire and Emergency Manufacturers and Services Association, Inc., recommends washing soiled turnout gear immediately after exposure to fire or body fluids.
So to ensure the safety of his staff and the longevity of their protective garments, Carter installed an on-premise washer extractor and drying cabinet at his Hudson station.
An added bonus, says Carter, is that his department will extend the life of their turnout gear by 50 percent. Since a set of quality turnout gear runs from $1,000-$1,500, and because laundry services are so costly, Carter says he couldn’t afford not to install on-premise laundry equipment. And, he’s not alone.
“It’s a safety issue,” says Assistant Fire Chief Mark Tallman of the Franklin Township, Ohio, Fire Dept. “Dirty gear acts as a heat sink – the more contaminants – the more the fabric holds rising temperatures, which increases the chance for injury to firefighters,” he says.
With safety being their top priority, both Tallman and Carter elicited the help of Continental distributor Advantage Equipment in Kent, Ohio, and installed Continental Pro-Seriesä, hi-performance washer-extractors and Cissell Fire-Clean 2000 CabinetDryers.
Carter, who operates a department with predominately part-time firefighters, installed a 30-pound washer-extractor and drying cabinet with attachments for boots and gloves. Similarly, Tallman’s station selected the same drying cabinet for its 23 firefighters, along with a larger 55-pound Continental machine, which can take on “six sets of gear at a time.”
The soft-mount washer-extractors offer programmable water extract speeds that reach 387-G force allowing the garments to come out dryer and decreasing the time in which the gear is out of commission. In Carter’s department, where each firefighter has only one set of gear, it’s essential that the washer remove nearly all of the water from the fabric. “Wet turnout gear can cause terrible steam burns,” he says.
In fire life, protective apparel is generally washed twice and rinsed four times at the highest extraction speed in order to remove particulate matter and excess water, says Tallman. But, the washer controls can be adjusted for cleaning other items such as, truck towels, station uniforms and squad coats – which protect firefighters from blood-born pathogens such as HIV and Hepatitis.
The Cissell drying cabinets which both stations installed look like portable closets that circulate warm air through the garments. Because of their ability to gently dry garments eliminating any tumbling action which can result in fabric abuse, the cabinets ultimately increase the life of the gear.
Tallman and Carter say they are pleased with their decision to install on-premise laundry equipment. Most of all, they feel good knowing that their fire-protection gear is clean and doing its job to keep their firefighters safe.
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