Firefighter group fighting cancer with specialized hoods for line of duty

As many take time to recognize firefighters and first responders on the anniversary of the September 11 attacks, some people are taking it a step further to help protect them in the line of duty.

While firefighters are known for battling flames, many face a different fight: cancer. The International Association of Firefighters says the disease has become the leading cause of line of duty deaths for firefighters - 60 percent will die from it.

“Houses burn at 400 plus toxins and the old houses had a lot less toxins in them, so they had to manufacture hoods that could block the carcinogens that could come in and protect the firefighters' head, neck and shoulder area from just those carcinogens seeping in,” said Tim Trainor of the Minnesota Firefighters Foundation.

It was just two years ago, the Minnesota Firefighters Foundation was organized after a Fox 9 investigation into the large number of firefighters battling cancer. The group now works to fight that trend.  

On Tuesday, players took part in a charity golf event to raise money to purchase the specialized hoods.

“They actually come over and then we put our masks over them, but they actually have barriers in them or fibers in them that allow for the carcinogens to kind of stop and not penetrate,” said Trainor.

Of the 723 fire departments in the state, about 80 percent are volunteer. It’s those volunteer departments that are the biggest concern.

“Larger departments typically have funding whereas the smaller departments aren’t writing a lot of grants or they’re prioritizing a lot of things ahead of this, I think it’s an educational or cultural shift,” said Trainor.