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Fire News in Focus
by Adam K. Thiel

Choosing to wear SCBA is choosing life

By Adam K. Thiel

Editor's note: With an alarming number of retired firefighters suffering from cancer, Chief Adam K. Thiel examines his own loss, and short comings, to point out how today's firefighters can use SCBA to mitigate the risk of cancer.

I lost my dad, who was not a firefighter, to cancer 20 years ago. Since then, I've known too many of our brother and sister firefighters who have had to go through the same terrible experiences my father suffered; sometimes successfully, but too often not.

That said, while I've always taken it as a given that I should wear my SCBA on my back, like many of us I haven't always been "100 percent" on wearing my mask in potentially toxic atmospheres.

Stories like this one make me regret it.

While I think I can honestly say that I've always worn my SCBA facepiece during active firefighting, sometimes (early in my career) I tried to conserve air on the way to the fire floor, or during overhaul so I could "stay inside" with my crew.

Stupid...air is free; and if you can't get your assigned task done after the first cylinder (bottle), then you have time to go outside (or into the stairwell, lobby, etc.) to get another one.

I know our thoughts and prayers are with the Portsmouth firefighters, and their families, who have faced this battle.

Let's do them the honor of learning from their experiences and masking up all the time!

Stay safe!

About the author

With more than two decades in the field, Chief Adam K. Thiel FireRescue1's editorial advisor is an active fire chief in the National Capital Region and a former state fire director for the Commonwealth of Virginia. Chief Thiel's operational experience includes serving with distinction in four states as a chief officer, incident commander, company officer, hazardous materials team leader, paramedic, technical rescuer, structural/wildland firefighter and rescue diver. He also directly participated in response and recovery efforts for several major disasters including the 9/11 terrorist attacks, Tropical Storm Gaston and Hurricane Isabel.

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