The Barling Fire Department was one of four organizations honored during a special event involving new lifesaving equipment last week.
The Firehouse Subs Public Safety Foundation celebrated $57,718 worth of lifesaving equipment grants awarded to four local public safety organizations during a press event in Rogers Oct. 4, according to a news release. Among these was the Barling Fire Department, which received a gear washer and dryer valued at $17,005. This allows the department to clean turnout gear more frequently, improving firefighter safety by reducing exposure to carcinogenic agents and ensuring access to dry gear during the next fire emergency. Grants were also awarded to Benton County, the Marmaduke Volunteer Fire Department and the Tontitown Fire Department.
Barling Fire Chief Tommy Sizemore said the Firehouse Subs Public Safety Foundation awarded this grant to the Barling Fire Department in October 2017.
"In ... March of 2017, they passed a bill in Arkansas that required that we give access to turnout gear washers to our firefighters, and they had a deadline of 2020 maybe," Sizemore said. "We were already planning a cancer prevention program, and that really gave us an opportunity to move that forward, so we applied for a grant with the Firehouse Subs Public Safety Foundation probably about that time."
Sizemore said the fire department first applied for the grant in March 2017, but did not receive it. However, the department was successful when it applied again in September 2017.
The distributor completed the installation of the gear washer and dryer for the Barling Fire Department over two days on Nov. 8 and Nov. 9. Sizemore said this equipment paid off almost immediately, with the department using it on Nov. 10 as the result of a house fire.
The Barling Fire Department now launders its gear properly after every fire, Sizemore said.
"They're not allowed to take it off, and throw it just on the truck," Sizemore said. "That's part of cancer prevention. We bag them up, bring them back, separate them because part of cancer prevention is knowing what can be washed together and what can't, so your outer shells that have direct contact with the smoke particles, we wash them separate from the inner protective liner that doesn't have direct access. That way we don't cross-contaminate the inside liner with the outside."
Sizemore said after the gear is separated at the fire department, it is washed following National Fire Protection Association guidelines utilizing the washer and dryer, which gets it as clean as feasibly possible.
"And that prevents them from contaminating the truck or the fire station or taking it home to their families," Sizemore said.
Studies show firefighters face a nine percent increase in cancer diagnoses and a 14 percent increase in cancer-related deaths compared to the general population, the release states.