James Vuona, Fire Chief
11 Church Road
Shrewsbury, MA 01545
For Immediate Release
Friday, June 29, 2018
Contact: John Guilfoil
Email: [email protected]
Shrewsbury Fire Department Participates in Cancer Prevention and Detection Course
SHREWSBURY — Chief James Vuona announces that the Shrewsbury Fire Department participated in a class about cancer prevention and early detection this week.
Firefighters took part in the course on Monday, June 25 and Tuesday, June 26 at Shrewsbury Fire Headquarters, where they learned about the increased risk of occupational cancer for firefighters, preventative measures and the importance of early detection.
According to the National Fire Protection Agency, cancer is the leading cause of firefighter deaths in the United States and approximately 60 percent of career firefighters will die because of cancer.
Shrewsbury Firefighter Bob Ljunggren led the course and taught his peers that although most fire departments are responding to fewer fires than in years past, the amount of time that firefighters are exposed to fires and harmful chemicals has increased. This is due to a limited number of available firefighters because of budget cuts, staffing reductions or availability of volunteers.
Additionally, fires now grow at a much quicker rate, which exposes firefighters to much higher concentrations of extremely carcinogenic agents. In fact, today’s residential fires have much more in common with hazmat events due to the materials common in modern homes, like plastics and synthetics.
The course also covered important life-saving measures that firefighters can take now to protect themselves, including wearing proper gear, washing themselves and their gear immediately after every fire, wearing sunscreen and not smoking.
In addition to Firefighter Ljunggren’s presentation, Helene Winn of 15-40 Connection, a nonprofit that focuses on the importance of early warning signs of cancer, spoke to firefighters about early cancer detection.
“Unfortunately, you can do everything right, take every preventative measure possible, and you can still get cancer,” Winn said.
With most cancers, early detection can increase the chance of survival by 90 percent. Winn explained that the most common cancer symptom is a subtle and persistent health change that lasts for two weeks or more. She recommended that firefighters know what their normal health is like, and call their doctor if they notice a change.
“This training is vital in educating our firefighters about the inherent dangers of occupational cancer in the fire service, and I would like to thank Bob and Helene for providing such valuable information,” Chief Vuona said. “In addition to training programs such as these, we are taking as many necessary precautions as we can at the fire station and on our apparatus to protect our crews and help them have long, healthy lives even after retirement.”