Author(s): Angelo Verzoni. Published on November 1, 2017.



New NFPA podcast drives home the need for home fire sprinklers

In 2016, more than 2,700 people died in home fires in the United States, and nearly 11,000 were injured in those fires.

But statistics only tell a fraction of the country’s complex home fire problem. There are ripple effects for those involved that the nightly news rarely captures.

In October, NFPA released “The Survivors,” a five-part podcast series about a Wyoming family’s struggle to recover from the loss of two children in a 2014 home fire. While focusing on the harrowing story of Feike van Dijk and his wife, Noelle, the series also weaves in perspectives from fire service members, safety advocates, burn treatment and recovery workers, and others. Listeners will also learn about home fire sprinklers, proven technology that can significantly reduce fire death and injury, was well as the powerful forces spending millions of dollars to keep sprinklers out of homes.

Subscribe to the podcast on Apple Podcast, Google Play, Stitcher or visiting Fire Sprinkler Initiative website.

Exposures in firefighting linked to DNA damage, study finds

A study published in October in the journal Mutagenesis found that exposure to polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAH) during firefighting is associated with DNA damage in blood cells. DNA damage has the potential to lead to genetic mutations that increase one’s risk of cancer.

“We saw positive correlation between PAH on skin and PAH in urine [which was believed to have mostly entered the body through the skin as well] and DNA damage in blood cells,” Ulla Vogel, one of the study’s authors, told NFPA Journal. “We therefore believe that the DNA damage was primarily caused by PAH, or soot, on the skin.”

Fifty-three young and healthy firefighters-in-training volunteered for the study, which involved them extinguishing fires of either wood or wood with electrical cords and mattresses. The study also found that wearing personal protective equipment (PPE), including self-contained breathing apparatus, effectively protected the test subjects against particle inhalation.

The study, which builds on a growing body of research on cancer in the fire service, underscores the need for firefighters to be mindful of limiting their exposure to soot through steps such as always wearing and rigorously cleaning their PPE. NFPA is committed to raising awareness around the threat of cancer in the fire service, and the Fire Protection Research Foundation is working on studies related to contamination.

To read NFPA Journal’s May/June 2017 cover story, “Facing Cancer,” on the topic.

$200K donation will help NYC firefighters battling cancer, other illnesses

A retired FDNY firefighter who survived 9/11 and cancer recently donated $200,000 to the department’s Fired Up for a Cure, which supports New York City firefighters and their families as they battle life-threatening illnesses like cancer. “This ceremony here today is all about one thing: generosity,” said FDNY Commissioner Daniel Nigro, as he and other FDNY officials accepted the check from the anonymous donor’s attorney, Michael Barasch, who has advocated for over 10,000 sickened 9/11 first responders. “Every single member of the FDNY has been impacted by cancer. Either you, a loved one, or a colleague has fought the disease in one way or another.”

“This money will be well spent,” said FDNY Chief Medical Officer Dr. Kerry Kelly. “The money that is going to [Fired Up for a Cure] will be used for prevention and to help our members stay well, to get the word out to keep people healthy … and that’s an important part of the mission that we follow.”

The money, in part, will go toward purchasing a new van for the department to provide transportation for firefighters and their families to medical appointments and counseling, and the American Cancer Society’s Hope Lodge, where FDNY members and their families can receive care and support when recovering from cancer.

To learn more about Fired Up for a Cure, visit the website.

Fire marshals gather at NFPA to learn about, discuss emerging issues

Dozens of fire marshals from the United States and abroad gathered at NFPA’s Massachusetts headquarters in October for the 2017 State Fire Marshals Forum. Presentations and discussion at the two-day event centered on timely fire service concerns such as firefighter cancer and energy storage systems.

This year’s forum saw the return of Canadian fire marshals, who did not attend last year’s event, and the inclusion of fire marshals from Latin America for the first time ever. “It was a great opportunity for all of the attendees to work with their peers and network,” said Steven Sawyer, NFPA’s fire code regional director and executive secretary of the International Fire Marshals Association, who organized the event. “In advance, we invited attendees to identify the topics that matter most to them—and that proved to be a formula for success. This year’s program addressed persistent enforcement challenges and offered insight on some of the new hazards that AHJs and others are dealing with today.”

The forum agenda included presentations by staff at NFPA and the Fire Protection Research Foundation (FPRF) on firefighter cancer and contamination, energy storage systems, economic analysis, tall wood buildings, data collection, community risk reduction, and more. Other topics discussed included fires in buildings under construction and combustible exterior wall assemblies.

NFPA offers a host of resources on everything that was discussed at the forum, which can be found on the NFPA website.

ANGELO VERZONI is staff writer for NFPA Journal. Top Photograph: Kyle MacNaught