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    Default Long Term Risks of Fire Fighting

    Hey everyone,

    I'm 24 and looking at settling into firefighting as a career, ive done a lot of research and reckon it's something i would fit into well.

    The one thing that is on my mind constantly and concerns me are the possible long term health affects of being a firey.

    I've read a few reports saying that a lot of career firefighters end up with all sorts of breathing problems and long term complications as a result of inhaling smoke, chemicals, asbestos fibers and any other nasty stuff that you encounter. Not to mention the wear and tear on your body of doing such a physical job.

    What are peoples experiences with this sort of thing, whether your own or of someone you work with or who is a family member, friend, etc.

    Thanks!

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    Where you work will determine your level of risk. Some departments only run a couple fires a year and spend most of their time running EMS calls, so they are not subject to the byproducts of combustion often. However, some departments run a fire or more a shift and inherrently breathe in their fair share of smoke and carcinogens.

    Basically, I wanted to be a FIREfighter and fight fire, not run EMS all day. I wanted to work in a city where they see a good amount of work and I was lucky enough to see that dream come to fruition. I will probably be ridiculed for this statement but.......I have come to terms with the fact that my life will probably be a little shorter than average. However, I say probably because while I know many firefighters that died in their early 60's, I also know a few that are in their late 80's. Some people buck the trend.

    What it comes down to is you deciding what you want from this career. If you are concerned about the health effects later in life, I would test places that are more affluent and see less fire. I should note, there is nothing wrong with that either. We are all brothers whether we fight 500 fires a year, or 1.

    Also, I should note, wearing your SCBA at ALL TIMES when in a smoky environment will provide great protection to your respiratory system. Do I wear mine at all times or as much as I should? No. We have one guy on the department who wears his mask all the way through overhaul. Yes, he gets ridiculed sometimes, but he is probably the least likely person to inhale any carcinogens.

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    Wearing your SCBA is crucial to minimizing exposure to toxins, but there is so much more than that.

    1) Things like keeping your gear clean, including your helmet and helmet liner, and hood, are every bit as important.

    2) Minimizing exposure, both on scene, and one that nobody thinks about, in quarters. I have long wondered why people put their dirty, smoke encrusted, possibly carcinogen tainted, bunker pants and boots alongside their bunk at night. All night you are exposed to whatever is on your bunkers.

    3) Wash your hands after a run, whether ems or fire, so you don't ingest whatever you hands may have been exposed to.
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    If you look at most deaths heart related

    Stay in shape

    Eat good

    Yearly good physical

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    Quote Originally Posted by fire5555 View Post
    If you look at most deaths heart related

    Stay in shape

    Eat good

    Yearly good physical
    This is true, but it wasn't what he asked about.
    Crazy, but that's how it goes
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    Sapper,

    I have several generations of firemen in the family before me...and they're pretty jacked up.

    I just visited my uncle yesterday. He retired 20 years ago on a back injury, and has had 7 surgeries...all have been unsuccessful and have left him in a lot of pain. In fact, he didn't even get out of bed yesterday due to complications from his most recent procedure. He wore an SCBA most of his career.

    My other uncle (served 1950-1975) has had a lot of heath problems as well, but he was an engineer most of his career and didn't spend much time on the inside...so a lot of the respiratory effects have been avoided.

    There have been many improvements over the years that should provide relief during retirement years for the current generations. Ergonomics has been a huge factor. For example, the hose we use today is significantly lighter than the brass equipped hose of yesterday...and much easier on the back.

    SCBA use is another positive improvement, as well as reduction in smoking and physical fitness improvements (still a long way to go, but headway is being made).

    The job today is still dangerous though. There are approximately 40,000 injuries per year in the American Fire Service.

    http://www.nfpa.org/itemDetail.asp?c...ookie%5Ftest=1

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    First of all, never refer to firemen as a "firey" again. That will greatly reduce your risk of physical injury.

    Second, risk of cancer, communicable disease, and injury is part of the job. We are doing a much better job now than we did before, but there is always a risk of breathing smoke, getting exposed to something, or getting hurt. You are signing up to be a fireman, fire is dangerous that's why we encapsulate ourselves before going into burning buildings. We are making great strides with personal protection equipment and ergonomics, but at the same time we are discovering new routes of taking in smoke (i.e. studies are showing we can absorb chemicals through the skin, not just by breathing) and cuts in staffing leaving less people. Although we are getting better with how we operate and gauge risk, we are still tasked with putting ourselves in harm's way to protect the lives of others (don't believe anyone who tells you otherwise).

    Sadly, there are firemen whose careers are cut short by injury. We do lose firemen to cancer both during their careers and in retirement. On the plus side, you get a fair wage for a job you'll love. Even with the negatives going on right now (scapegoating of public employees, threats of budget cuts or actual cuts), being in the firehouse is still fun and we still love coming to work.

    So there is the risk I will die sooner than my office working peers or have a beat up body when retired, but I'll have 30 years of loving what I do. I won't have to drag myself to work and count down to every weekend.

    There is no guarantee you'll get cancer either, many firefighters do live long lives. So don't dwell on it
    Last edited by nameless; 01-30-2012 at 05:39 PM.

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    Posted by Nameless
    First of all, never refer to firemen as a "firey" again. That will greatly reduce your risk of physical injury.
    \He could be an Aussie or a Kiwi.. they do speak a different version of the English language there!
    ‎"The education of a firefighter and the continued education of a firefighter is what makes "real" firefighters. Continuous skill development is the core of progressive firefighting. We learn by doing and doing it again and again, both on the training ground and the fireground."
    Lt. Ray McCormack, FDNY

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    Nameless gets it......

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    Quote Originally Posted by SFDCityFire View Post
    Nameless gets it......
    What exactly does he get?

    If what he gets is that injuries, cancer and death are inevitable conclusions of a firefighting career then I disagree. There are high probabilities of all of those, but precautions such as I listed above, can dramatically reduce that.
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    stop trying to pick fights. I never once said it is inevitable, in fact I clearly state the opposite at the end of my post. You must be a miserable little man, to be this ornery and disagreeable.

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    Quote Originally Posted by nameless View Post
    stop trying to pick fights. I never once said it is inevitable, in fact I clearly state the opposite at the end of my post. You must be a miserable little man, to be this ornery and disagreeable.
    Not trying to pick a fight. The perception I got from your post was that you were stating that it is inevitable because you say "It is part of the job." My point was if you follow the simple precautions I mentioned above you can dramatically REDUCE your exposure to toxins and carcinogens.

    Sorry if I offended you.
    Crazy, but that's how it goes
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    Big thanks for all the feedback everyone, and yes i am an Aussie and the term "firey" is thrown around a lot down here

    It looks like a lot of it comes down to looking after yourself to reducing the risks, being strict with your SCBA and keeping it on until you're in a safe area, lifting heavy loads properly, etc. Also pretty much all organizations these days are very safety focused so they'll probably do everything they can to ensure you're well looked after.

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    Quote Originally Posted by FyredUp View Post
    What exactly does he get?

    If what he gets is that injuries, cancer and death are inevitable conclusions of a firefighting career then I disagree. There are high probabilities of all of those, but precautions such as I listed above, can dramatically reduce that.
    Yes, you can reduce the contaminants you are exposed to and thus reduce your chances of getting a disease or cancer. I agree with Nameless 100% that when I took the job, I understood the risks involved and the likelihood of getting cancer or some other disease at some point. I've accepted that fact because I love this job and for me, 30 years of having the best job in the world is worth the increased risk of a shortened life span. I have never said to myself,"Man I don't feel like going to work today." For me, that is huge. How many people can say that.

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    Quote Originally Posted by SFDCityFire View Post
    Yes, you can reduce the contaminants you are exposed to and thus reduce your chances of getting a disease or cancer. I agree with Nameless 100% that when I took the job, I understood the risks involved and the likelihood of getting cancer or some other disease at some point. I've accepted that fact because I love this job and for me, 30 years of having the best job in the world is worth the increased risk of a shortened life span. I have never said to myself,"Man I don't feel like going to work today." For me, that is huge. How many people can say that.
    Let me see if I understand this...You are saying, as a young wannabe, you honestly sat down and thought to yourself "Well, I know I might get cancer or some other mysterious disease fom this job but I accept that as part of the job." Because I know for damn sure that I knew the job was dangerous, but I never thought about cancer or lung disease before joining my local POC FD or before deciding to go career.

    If my life is shortened because of what I faced in my career it certainly will not be because I didn't do everything I could to prevent it. I do all of the things I listed above, not only for me but for my family. We can't control what we are exposed to on this job, but we can control how we deal with it during and after the incident.

    Stay safe Brothers and Sisters.
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    I grew up around the firehouse and was mentored by a full-timer so, yes, I did know the risks and higher probability of certain cancers. You should never assume things about people. Just because you maybe wouldn't have thought about that before you got hired doesn't mean someone else hasn't. I was mature at a young age, knew what I wanted to do, and got hired at a young age.

    And i was never a wannabe.....I didn't put a lightbar on my car or wear "I slay the dragon t-shirts." Didn't need to shout out "I'm a Firefighter!" to make myself feel important. We have enough of those around.....

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    Quote Originally Posted by FyredUp View Post
    Not trying to pick a fight. The perception I got from your post was that you were stating that it is inevitable because you say "It is part of the job." My point was if you follow the simple precautions I mentioned above you can dramatically REDUCE your exposure to toxins and carcinogens.

    Sorry if I offended you.
    While we can REDUCE the risk, we can't eliminate it. While no one is guaranteed to get cancer/disabled/killed, it is going to happen to someone. Someone said it before me, but they were right, "We can do everything right and still lose." I think its unfair to give people a false sense of safety, and if they are going to join this profession they should understand the risks, whether before they join or soon after.

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    Default Risks

    This last year my old department had lost four to work related retirement deaths. This year we've lost one more......even if you try to stop all of the contaminants you still run the risks....sad but true. I wish you luck in your career I hope it's a long and enjoyable one like mine was.
    Respectfully,
    Jay Dudley
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    Quote Originally Posted by nameless View Post
    While we can REDUCE the risk, we can't eliminate it. While no one is guaranteed to get cancer/disabled/killed, it is going to happen to someone. Someone said it before me, but they were right, "We can do everything right and still lose." I think its unfair to give people a false sense of safety, and if they are going to join this profession they should understand the risks, whether before they join or soon after.
    If you read what I posted I said you can REDUCE the risks, I never said we could eliminate them. I know the job is dangerous, I know the risk of injury is high, I know there is a risk from exposure to toxins and carcinogens, and I even acknowledge the fact that we lose Brothers every year to fiefighting despite all the precautions taken.

    What I don't accept is the fact that we can do little to stop those occurrences. We can wear ALL of our protective gear including SCBA, we can clean it, and we can clean ourselves. Of course we will never make firefighting 100% safe, we simply can't if we are doing it right, going inside to fight fire, and to make rescues.
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    Quote Originally Posted by sapper808 View Post
    Not to mention the wear and tear on your body of doing such a physical job.
    I'm "just" a volunteer (meaning I go to fewer calls and see fewer fires than a lot of career guys) I'll add my anecdotal story about physical wear and tear. Oddly enough, I really didn't see it coming. When I joined at 18 I was invincible, I never got exhausted or worn out in a fire or in training, I don't even remember once being sore. I was in shape, ate like a horse, didn't drink at all or smoke, and was skinny as rail. Did it for 8 years in two different FDs.

    Then I took 10 years off. Finished school and started a family. Got a desk job.

    Got back into the game 2 years ago at 37. What a difference. While most still consider me skinny, I'm still 15-20 lbs heavier than I was. I don't exercise like I once did and now what I eat matters.

    I just finished an SCBA Confidence class. I have bruises in places I didn't think were possible. I was sucking down nearly a full bottle each time I went through the maze. I popped my shoulder out. (previous dislocations have trashed my left shoulder) I scraped the skin off my elbows. Through my turnout coat. After 4 nights of this I am a wreck and popping Advil like they were M&Ms. And this was just a TRAINING class.

    Now, that 10 years off admittedly played a huge role, I let myself get soft. What caught me off guard was I didn't notice it happening at all. And now I'm playing catch up to be able to do this stuff again.

    Anyway, my point here is that the wear and tear is very real and even if you don't see a ton of action its gonna happen. It's cumulative and virtually irreversible. My shoulder will always try to pop out when doing certain techniques. Keep yourself fit and strong, always.

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    I don't disagree with the wear and tear that this job can put on the body.

    By the same token wear and tear of many jobs become an issue as we age. Talk to a cement finisher who spent 20 years on his knees with a trowel finishing concrete...most often their knees, or back, or both are shot. Age is inevbitable, assuming you survive to age, the body aches, pain, and more are part of the aging process. Staying in shape can lessen those issues, but definitely will not eliminate them. Believe me I know, I am 53 and a self rescue, RIT, or bail out drill, can sometimes leave me sore for days.

    I agree that we cannot eliminate all the hazards of the job, it is impossible simply due to the nature of our chosen career (whether volly, POC, or Paid). We can stay in shape, we can keep our gear, our station, and ourselves clean, and through those actions we can reduce our chances of injury or death from those causes.

    Stay safe Brothers and Sisters.
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    Quote Originally Posted by SFDCityFire View Post
    Yes, you can reduce the contaminants you are exposed to and thus reduce your chances of getting a disease or cancer. I agree with Nameless 100% that when I took the job, I understood the risks involved and the likelihood of getting cancer or some other disease at some point. I've accepted that fact because I love this job and for me, 30 years of having the best job in the world is worth the increased risk of a shortened life span. I have never said to myself,"Man I don't feel like going to work today." For me, that is huge. How many people can say that.
    I with you on this one.. Before you decide to become a fireman you need to realize its not a safe job. No matter WHAT you do you will be exposed to things and certain situations that could and will shorten your life.. Its something you accept as a fireman. I too was raised around fireman, as my dad, grandad, and older brother are/ were fireman.. I knew the risks entering the job.. i work for a busy FD and i put my life on the line almost every shift.. But I love every second of it..
    "....train as if your life depends on it, because one day it could.."
    .....Leather Head N6A
    Tillerman..... The best job in the FD!!!

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    Quote Originally Posted by FyredUp View Post
    Believe me I know, I am 53 and a self rescue, RIT, or bail out drill, can sometimes leave me sore for days.

    I agree that we cannot eliminate all the hazards of the job, it is impossible simply due to the nature of our chosen career (whether volly, POC, or Paid).
    Perhaps you should think of moving on if you can't do your job.

    It's not a career if you're anything other than a paid dept. Otherwise it's just playing firemans.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Irish6019 View Post
    Perhaps you should think of moving on if you can't do your job.

    It's not a career if you're anything other than a paid dept. Otherwise it's just playing firemans.
    Okay since you set the tone I will reply in kind.

    1) So do tell where I said I can't do the job? If being sore after hard physical taining, or a tough fire, means you can't do the job we ae going to lose a hell of a lot of firefighters, both volly and career.

    2) I am a career firefighter, and I would wager I have been one for far longer than you have. So let me cordially invite you to go **** yourself and your condescending attitude.

    3) I would take anyone of the highly trained, highly skilled Paid On Call firefighters fom the 2 POC FDs I run with on my off days over a poor excuse for a firefighter like you. The only guys that consistently rag on POC or Volly firefighters are guys that either couldn't get on the local volly FD, or have a really serious case of little man's syndrome. In order to make up for your **** poor performance you have to tear down someone else.

    4) How about a little advice fom an old timer. Until you have the balls to come and challenge me face to face about my ability to do the job how about you STFU and crawl back into your basement where your mommy can keep bringing you cookies and milk. Hurry I hear your xBox firefighter game calling you.

    5) Oh, do have a nice day.
    Last edited by FyredUp; 02-13-2012 at 01:12 AM.
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    Quote Originally Posted by FyredUp View Post
    Okay since you set the tone I will reply in kind.

    1) So do tell where I said I can't do the job? If being sore after hard physical taining, or a tough fire, means you can't do the job we ae going to lose a hell of a lot of firefighters, both volly and career.

    2) I am a career firefighter, and I would wager I have been one for far longer than you have. So let me cordially invite you to go **** yourself and your condescending attitude.

    3) I would take anyone of the highly trained, highly skilled Paid On Call firefighters fom the 2 POC FDs I run with on my off days over a poor excuse for a firefighter like you. The only guys that consistently rag on POC or Volly firefighters are guys that either couldn't get on the local volly FD, or have a really serious case of little man's syndrome. In order to make up for your **** poor performance you have to tear down someone else.

    4) How about a little advice fom an old timer. Until you have the balls to come and challenge me face to face about my ability to do the job how about you STFU and crawl back into your basement where your mommy can keep bringing you cookies and milk. Hurry I hearr your xBox firefighterr game calling you.

    5) Oh, do have a nice day.
    .... I knew this was coming but I actually agree. Your always going to have guys like this in the fire service. The 20+ year guys who forget more knowledge in a day about ffing than I know in my 8 years. Doesn't mean they need to move on.. Just means they need to spread that knowledge to the younger guys like me, so I can be that guy one day.
    "....train as if your life depends on it, because one day it could.."
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