Scrub a dub dub

While washing the HM Mobile this morning (which recently crested the 100,000 mile mark TYVM!) I was amazed at how dirty it had gotten over the holiday season.  All the trash from the kids’ snack wrappers, pretzel crumbs, paperwork from work, scattered uniform bits and other such regalia were taken out so I could vacuum and clean.

At one point I told myself, jokingly, “You wash your gear more often than this car.”

And it’s true.  I wash my turnouts once a month and after every fire.  I clean out and wash my car far less frequently.  But then again, there are few chances my dirty car will lead to my premature death.

The reason we wear our SCBAs into fires is because of the smoke, right?  What is smoke if not particles of non-complete combustion?  Where does that smoke land while our lungs are protected by fresh air?  On our gear.  We get back from a worker and clean our hose, hooks, axes and engine so that they are ready for the next alarm.  We shower and change into a fresh uniform, or at least a new pair of shorts and a T-shirt.

But how often are you cleaning your turnouts?

They likely sit neglected on the floor of the bay, covered in soot, drywall, insulation and whatever else was in that fire, signaling to the next crew that you are the man.  You caught a fire and you are one bad ass.  Your jacket is just as filthy, as is your helmet, but I bring up the boots for a special reason.  Would you sleep in that fire building that night after the fire is out?

Then why do you but your dirty, dangerous boots RIGHT NEXT to your bed later that night up in the dorm?

Fires are still killing us and that is disturbing all on it’s own, but what is more disturbing is the growing list of firefighters contracting rare, and not so rare, forms of cancer.  Bladder, kidney, lung… all cancers we open ourselves to when we fail to clean our protective gear after a fire.

The glory days of the Fire Service of Old are long gone fellas.  Smoke Eaters did this job when houses were made of wood and cloth.  Now there are metals, chemical carpet stain blockers, plastics and a host of other things that we recognize as dangerous and mask up.

But remember that along for the ride was your coat.  And your helmet.  And your boots.

Don’t have time to clean them?  Find another excuse.

It’s not that bad? Find another excuse.

Or keep doing what you’re doing but don’t be surprised when the doctor tells you you won’t be able to enjoy that retirement you earned.

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15 thoughts on “Scrub a dub dub”

  1. We don’t allow turnout gear in the dorms in Providence, one of the better decisions they made. I destroyed a coworkers coat last week at a fire when my gear took off with the rescue, (somebody took a run for me, very nice of him, he’s a little mad now) and I ended up first in at a house fire. I was glad that he put it through the extractor immediately, rather than carry that stuff around with him, I might have been tempted to keep the aroma around for a while. God help me, I do love that smell, it smells like victory!

  2. We don’t allow turnout gear in the dorms in Providence, one of the better decisions they made. I destroyed a coworkers coat last week at a fire when my gear took off with the rescue, (somebody took a run for me, very nice of him, he’s a little mad now) and I ended up first in at a house fire. I was glad that he put it through the extractor immediately, rather than carry that stuff around with him, I might have been tempted to keep the aroma around for a while. God help me, I do love that smell, it smells like victory!

  3. HM, interesting post! It wouldn’t have occurred to me to think of the hazards beyond the smells in the gear. However, I’m just curious: how do you wash the gear? I imagine you can’t just throw it in a washing machine like regular laundry. It’s pretty big and heavy for one, and I would think it has some sort of fabric treatment or coating that has to be preserved.

    1. Oddly enough…read the label. Mild dry detergent and a bristle brush, water, hang dry. It also notes that for complete protection you should be wearing long sleeved shirt and long pants beneath it.

  4. HM, interesting post! It wouldn’t have occurred to me to think of the hazards beyond the smells in the gear. However, I’m just curious: how do you wash the gear? I imagine you can’t just throw it in a washing machine like regular laundry. It’s pretty big and heavy for one, and I would think it has some sort of fabric treatment or coating that has to be preserved.

    1. Oddly enough…read the label. Mild dry detergent and a bristle brush, water, hang dry. It also notes that for complete protection you should be wearing long sleeved shirt and long pants beneath it.

  5. Wouldn’t cleaning your turnout gear be like a police officer cleaning his weapon? If you want your gear to work properly (and for all that pretty reflective stuff to be reflective), doesn’t it need to be clean? And the helmet. Yeah, sure, it looks cool to be all grubby, but don’t you want to see if it’s damaged? I know we clean our patients so we can see all of their dings and dents. Wouldn’t you want to see the same on your helmet?

  6. Wouldn’t cleaning your turnout gear be like a police officer cleaning his weapon? If you want your gear to work properly (and for all that pretty reflective stuff to be reflective), doesn’t it need to be clean? And the helmet. Yeah, sure, it looks cool to be all grubby, but don’t you want to see if it’s damaged? I know we clean our patients so we can see all of their dings and dents. Wouldn’t you want to see the same on your helmet?

  7. Turnout gear is not allowed in the living areas of our firehouses….apparatus room floor only.

    I have two full sets of gear (helmet, boots hoods, gloves, the works).
    I wash my gear, on average, after every 2-3 fires. Washing it after every fire generally isn’t practical because, when we’re busy, I may have 2-3 fires a day…….when we’re slow it’s 1 a week……so a lot of times I just slush the outsides off. Washing a set of gear and then hanging it to drip dry in the Winter takes a full day or two for it to dry out completely.
    My gear (even though it’s only two years old) would have fallen apart by now from all the washing (we use a custom, commercial gear washer) if I washed it after every fire.

    The one thing I find funny is our fire gloves can’t be washed in a washer so they have to be washed by hand, with cold water and no detergent………….making them not very clean ,even when you clean them !!!
    And the parts of our gear (helmet and boots) that should really be cleaned are the insides, not the outsides……the parts that are next to your skin. But who wants to wash the inside of their helmet or the insides of their boots ?

  8. Turnout gear is not allowed in the living areas of our firehouses….apparatus room floor only.

    I have two full sets of gear (helmet, boots hoods, gloves, the works).
    I wash my gear, on average, after every 2-3 fires. Washing it after every fire generally isn’t practical because, when we’re busy, I may have 2-3 fires a day…….when we’re slow it’s 1 a week……so a lot of times I just slush the outsides off. Washing a set of gear and then hanging it to drip dry in the Winter takes a full day or two for it to dry out completely.
    My gear (even though it’s only two years old) would have fallen apart by now from all the washing (we use a custom, commercial gear washer) if I washed it after every fire.

    The one thing I find funny is our fire gloves can’t be washed in a washer so they have to be washed by hand, with cold water and no detergent………….making them not very clean ,even when you clean them !!!
    And the parts of our gear (helmet and boots) that should really be cleaned are the insides, not the outsides……the parts that are next to your skin. But who wants to wash the inside of their helmet or the insides of their boots ?

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