Cobb County firefighters find new device to reduce cancer risk

Cobb County firefighters have a new device to keep them safe. Fire officials say the StormStick will not only help them now, but possibly for the rest of their lives.

When firefighters respond to calls, they're not just battling the smoke and flames.

"The amount of carcinogens that are in smoke – whether it be a residential or commercial fire – the numbers are through the roof now as opposed to what they were 30, 40 or 50 years ago before everything was made of plastic. Now, couches, carpet, furniture that's all pressboard, all of that is made out of plastics and when plastics burn it releases hydrogen cyanide, carbon monoxide and a host of other chemicals we don't necessarily see," said Cobb County Fire Capt. Ben Holley.

Fire officials say it's enough to cause long term health problems.

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Cobb County Fire & Emergency Rescue

"We're seeing a large increase in the number of firefighters being diagnosed with cancer, and the majority of those cancers turn out to be occupational," said Capt. Holley.

Now, Cobb County firefighters have a better way to help decontaminate their gear after a fire. It's called the StormStick.

The stick is easy to mount, and the detergent is loaded and ready to use.

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Cobb County Fire & Emergency Rescue

"It gets most of the contaminates that their gear has absorbed from the incident off of their gear pretty quickly," said Capt. Holley.

"There's carcinogens and other chemicals that come out of every single fire that they need to decontaminate from," said Lance LoRusso with the Cobb County Public Safety Foundation.

The Cobb County Public Safety Foundation helped pay for the StormStick. It cost $2500. Now they're raising money to get five more of them.

"One for every battalion, and we need one for a back-up," LoRusso said. "Decontamination is so important. Even when they're training in the fire simulators, they really need to decontaminate."

"It's consistent, easy and effective. That's a win-win for us," said Capt. Holley.

The Cobb County Public Safety Foundation typically helps out when items like the StormStick aren't in the budget. Those interested can donate and find out more about the foundation here.