State awards cleaning machine grants for fire depts.

Staff Report
Published: 2/25/2020 10:12:32 PM
Modified: 2/25/2020 10:12:25 PM

STOW — The state has awarded a total of $420,000 in grants to 75 Massachusetts fire departments, including Erving’s, for gear cleaning machines that will reduce firefighters’ exposure to cancer-causing chemicals on the job.

“This grant program will help keep firefighters across the Commonwealth healthy by preventing repeated exposures to the dangerous chemicals they encounter every day,” said Gov. Charlie Baker in a prepared statement.. “Firefighters take significant risks each and every time they put their gear on and respond to an emergency. One way that we can protect them and show our appreciation for their dedicated service is to provide these machines to ensure their gear is clean at the start of every emergency.”

Locally, Erving received $4,950 while Greenfield and Northfield, each was awarded $6,449.

“The best-practices related to the care and handling of turnout gear have changed rapidly in recent years,” said Secretary of Public Safety and Security Thomas Turco in a prepared statement. “We have a far better understanding of the occupational cancer problem in the fire service now than we did just a short time ago, and have learned that providing firefighters with the ability to wash their turnout gear after every exposure to smoke or fire is one of the best things we can do for their long-term health and safety.”

The awards come in addition to $920,000 in grant awards delivered last year to 174 fire departments, funding 75 washer-extractors and about 3,000 pairs of gloves and another 3,000 hoods. The administration has also filed a $25 million bond bill to continue funding similar grants to allow departments to purchase equipment including washers-extractors.

“It was not long ago that turnout gear was rarely washed because we didn’t understand the cumulative effects of wearing soot-laden gear every day,” said State Fire Marshal Peter J. Ostroskey in a prepared statement. “We now know the importance of washing gear regularly, however the financial challenge of equipping fire stations with gear washers has delayed the implementation of these practices in many departments. The 75 machines purchased through this program will greatly accelerate the adoption of these practices for a significant number of firefighters.”

Through the Washer-Extractor Equipment Grant, $420,000 was awarded to 75 departments that will each receive a new washer-extractor to clean their structural firefighting gear after exposure to smoke and other toxic chemicals. A national standard set by the National Fire Protection Association on the care and cleaning of structural firefighting gear delineates specific types of machines that should be used to effectively remove cancer-causing chemicals after each fire. All washer-extractors purchased with this grant will meet this standard and enable personnel to wear clean gear each time they leave the fire station for an emergency.

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