On Saturday, the Fire Smoke Coalition presented a full day of training to firefighters from around the state in an effort to teach about the dangerous toxins in smoke.
The training took place from 8:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. at the Wayne Township Fire Department, located at 700 N. High School Road, in Indianapolis.
Shawn Longerich, executive director of the Fire Smoke Coalition, said the coalition provides this type of training around the world.
“The Fire Smoke Coalition … we are really the epicenter of training on the topic of fire smoke,” she said. “We do it nationally and internationally. It’s all about the awareness of smoke, prevention and protection, and diagnosis and treatment. The reason we do it is that firefighters are dropping dead like flies.”
What’s putting firefighters at risk, Longerich said, is hydrogen cyanide, which is found in the type of smoke emitted by many household objects that burn in fires.
According to information from the coalition, the presence of the toxin in smoke causes firefighter cancer, cardiac related illness and deaths, neurological problems and other chronic health problems. Even worse, the problems are increasing, making the need for proper training even more necessary.
The Wayne Township Fire Department found out firsthand what being exposed to the toxins for too long can do, as the department lost one of its own: Firefighter/engineer Don Hochstetler. Hochstetler succumbed to cancer Nov. 13 of last year.
His cancer was directly related to his firefighting duties and earlier this year, was approved for an on-duty illness.
Longerich said there’s two parts to the training.
“It’s about protecting the firefighters, increasing their awareness, and preventing their death and suffering,” she said. “Then for civilians, it’s about educating the firefighters and EMS personnel about appropriate treatment for civilians.”
Longerich explained there are antidotes available for people suffering from smoke inhalation.