HICKORY, N.C. — The Hickory Fire Department received more than 100 new, state-of-the-art protective hoods to fight back against a cancer crisis affecting the firefighting community.
The purchase came after recent studies showed firefighters are nine percent more likely to get cancer compared to everyone else, and 14 percent more likely to die from it.
Hickory Fire Captain John Warren said the typical hood protects a firefighter's face and neck from getting seriously burned, but it doesn't protect carcinogens from being absorbed into the body.
"We have had quite a few members with cancer," Captain Warren said. "Luckily, we have not had anybody pass away."
He said the rise in cancer can be attributed to changes in fire's look and composition.
Smoke is blacker because buildings contain much more plastic and synthetic materials, which, when burning, release carcinogens.
The city's new firefighting hoods are noticeable thicker because they contain a filter to block out carcinogens.
"The city's doing their best to look after us as we look out for the citizens throughout the career," Captain Warren said. "The whole goal is for us to be able to go home safe at the end of the day, and, whenever we retire, to be able to spend time with our families."