Mass. Firefighting Academy awarded $400-K grant for cleaning equipment

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STOW – The Massachusetts Firefighting Academy (MFA) has been awarded $400,000 in Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) grant funding to purchase a mobile extraction unit to clean firefighters’ gear.

“We know that one of the most important things we can do for the long-term health and safety of firefighters is to wash their turnout gear. This will allow students and instructors to take this important safety step after live fire training,” said State Fire Marshal Peter Ostroskey.

“Unfortunately, we now know that the toxic substances firefighters come in contact with every day increase their risk of being diagnosed with occupational cancer,” said Secretary Thomas Turco of the Executive Office of Public Safety and Security. “Properly cleaning turnout gear is one major step we can take to fight the high rate of occupational cancer in the fire service, and to show our deep appreciation for these dedicated public safety professionals.”

Mobile Extraction Unit (MEU) Overview

A national standard set by the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) 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, preventing repeated exposures from occurring every time a firefighter puts on their gear. Currently, the MFA’s capacity to clean the turnout gear worn by staff and students across its three campuses is challenged by the high-demand for live fire training across the state.

The Mobile Extraction Unit (MEU) will dramatically increase this capacity, travelling to all three campuses to wash and dry 40 full sets of gear per day. The unit consists of a box truck chassis with two extractors, two drying cabinets, a tumble dryer, a 700-gallon fresh water tank, and a 700-gallon wastewater tank.

The MEU will also allow for the sampling of water before and after it is used to clean turnout gear. This will provide previously unknown information about the types of toxins created by burning straw, pallets, and gas in an academy setting, benefitting fire academies across the country that engage in similar training practices.

Over the course of the past year, the Baker-Polito Administration has awarded $840,000 in grant funding for municipal fire departments to purchase washer-extractor units that can effectively clean their structural firefighting gear after exposure to smoke and toxic chemicals.

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