BRANDON, Fla. — A Hillsborough County Fire Station is under construction in Brandon. The new building will not only help with response times but also help reduce cancer exposure in firefighters.
ABC Action News got an inside look as the construction was underway at the location right off West Brandon Boulevard on Pauls Drive.
Firefighters are subject to cancer 20-30% more than the general public.
The new building aims to help with that, taking prime concern with what happens after rescuers respond to a fire.
"The features of this station include a decon area so when they return from a fire, they can quickly decon. We have a rule in the fire services shower within the hour after the fire. So they can come back, they can get off the apparatus, go straight into a shower, take off their bunker gear, take off their uniforms, and get that all cleaned up before they go into any other part of the station," explained Hillsborough County Fire Chief Dennis Jones.
The new building will also include a place to decontaminate all their gear from any carcinogens and reduce the spread of these harmful chemicals.
"The state recognizes it and they actually made 21 specific types of cancer are now covered under work[man's] comp and you know, it would be job-related. And so firefighters are very aware of that. We have special decontamination equipment on every engine now, so that after a fire, they can quickly decontaminate their gear at the scene. But this provides that additional layer so that they can get all the way down to the skin. You know, they can get all of their uniforms off, get in the shower, you know, get in the water, and so get cleaned off really well. And that we certainly know that this next generation of firefighters should be much less susceptible to all the carcinogens that are out there," explains Chief Jones.
Chief Jones told ABC Action News how much times have changed when it comes to being a firefighter. When he first started it used to be a "badge of honor" to have dirty gear. Now, it's the opposite.
"The lives were saved and certainly in the public, yes, but we weren't saving our own lives. We weren't protecting ourselves and so now, you clean your helmet, you clean your facepiece, you clean your uniforms, you clean your bunker gear, especially," explained Chief Jones. "And we have special hoods, cancer preventive hoods, they have a special layer inside the fabric to keep the cancer particulates off of the skin. The neck and the hands are two of the most common areas to get those cancer-causing agents and so we're really focused on keeping the gear clean, keeping the uniform clean, and keeping the firefighters clean."
New fire station 45 won't just keep firefighters safe, it will also make sure the growing community is safer.
"They know that response times are critical. And this station is going to provide a much better response time to the Brandon area in total and certainly the central Brandon area. We're adding a rescue and an engine, a paramedic pump and a fire rescue ambulance transport. So it adds to full response units to the capacity here," said Chief Jones.