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CFD Takes Steps To Limit Firefighter Cancer Risks

Charlotte Fire Department is adopting safety changes to address concerns about cancer among firefighters. Chief Reginald Johnson said that includes better wash-downs after incidents to remove potential carcinogens and requiring firefighters to wear breathing equipment for a time after a fire.

"We've changed it so you have to wear your SCBA, self contained breathing apparatus, during overhaul, which is something that's new here in the department, but really does protect your respiratory tract from other types of particulates as well as other toxins," Johnson said during a briefing with reporters Monday.

The department also is studying cancer among local firefighters.

Johnson said he has set up a series of work groups among his staff to recommend other improvements in the department. The groups are looking at recruitment and hiring, staffing and human resources, promotions, and health and safety.

Fire Chief Reginald Johnson talked to reporters Monday at Charlotte Fire Department headquarters.
City of Charlotte / City of Charlotte
City of Charlotte
Fire Chief Reginald Johnson talked to reporters Monday at Charlotte Fire Department headquarters.

That includes improvements in mental health awareness and training, and working with the local firefighters union. He said the department has more firefighters ready to counsel one another after crime- or fire-related calls.

"PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) is not a joke when it comes public safety," Johnson said. "Just being exposed to the things that the men and women see on a daily basis — we need to have that opportunity for our men and women to debrief when exposed to those type of incidents."

Johnson was sworn in as fire chief in May 2018.

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David Boraks is a veteran journalist who covers climate change for WFAE. See more at www.wfae.org/climate-news. He also has covered housing and homelessness, energy and the environment, transportation and business.