City Council takes action to protect Portsmouth firefighters

PORTSMOUTH, Va. - The City of Portsmouth is taking action to protect those who keep the community safe.

On Tuesday, they voted to pass a resolution that will give the fire department enough money to purchase a second set of fire fighting gear for each member of the department.

According to Fire Union President Kurt Detrick, the most dangerous part of a fire fighter's job isn't battling flames, it's coming in contact with dangerous cancer causing chemicals inside of a burning building.

"If you look at all the products in your home today, it is mostly plastics and synthetics. When that burns, it releases all kinds of chemicals," explained Detrick. "Sixty percent of firefighter deaths can be attributed to cancer."

According to Detrick, 40 Portsmouth firefighters have died from cancer, while 20 more have been diagnosed with some form of the disease.

"When you fight a fire, you are going to get contaminated with all the soot and smoke and carcinogens," said Captain Anton Pociask.

A second set of gear would allow Portsmouth firefighters to spend less time in contaminated gear. Currently, most fire fighters do not wash their gear until the end of their shift which lasts for several days.

"You will have a fresh set of turn out gear and limit your exposure to harmful carcinogens," explained Captain Pociask.

Portsmouth is only the third department in the state to be given money for a second set of gear. Portsmouth Fire Chief James Hoffler says the decision speaks volumes.

"It's just monumental to have this kind of commitment come from city government. We can't thank them enough."