It was a brief yet important announcement given at the Genoa Township Fire Department in Galena on the morning of Tuesday, March 6.
The fire station on Big Walnut Road was the site of an announcement by the Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation (BWC) to promote its “Firefighter Exposure to Environmental Elements Grant Program.” Genoa used a $10,075 grant to purchase an industrial washing machine to replace a 1995 model.
To look at the white washer, it seemed little different than a typical household appliance. However, this larger unit was an “extractor,” an industrial machine that meets National Fire Protection Association standards. The National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health said because firefighters are exposed to carcinogenic chemicals during a fire fight, they have a higher risk of being diagnosed and dying from cancer than the general public. The extractor allows all gear, such as gloves and helmets, to be washed prior to the next shift.
“This is going to go a long way for us in preventing cancer,” said Gary Honeycutt, Genoa Township Fire Chief. “We’re very thankful.”
In a prepared statement that coincided with the event, Honeycutt said, “Cancer is a leading threat to firefighter health and we take that threat seriously. We are grateful for the BWC grant that has allowed us to remove carcinogens from turnout gear, minimizing health impacts to our firefighters.”
Bill Spurgeon, the state’s Chief Deputy Fire Marshal, said he was “delighted” to partner with BWC on the grant program.
“We celebrate Chief Honeycutt’s leadership,” Spurgeon said. “We have always known the importance of safety gear in firefighting, but now we also have a better understanding of how proper maintenance of that gear can protect the health and safety of our first responders.”
“It’s an exciting day for me to see our safety grants in action and to see our local communities are investing in making their work places safer, particularly our first responders,” said Sarah Morrison, administrator/CEO of the BWC. “We’re doing what we can to make our firefighters safe here in Ohio. We want our firefighters to be able to return home safely to their families and to fight another day.”
According to the BWC, 199 grants totaling $2 million have been awarded with four months remaining in the fiscal year, with 245 other grant applications pending.
The event was one of many that tied in with Gov. John R. Kasich’s (R) final State of the State address, which he gave on March 6 at Otterbein University in Westerville, near his family’s home. Correspondingly, these events were spread throughout central Ohio, as far north as Marysville and as far east as Newark. Half of those events are listed in the accompanying box.
Gary Budzak may be reached at 740-413-0906 or on Twitter @GaryBudzak.