By Beth O’Brien, reporting for Bluebonnet News of Montgomery County
Conroe Fire Department on Monday distributed more than $400,000 worth of fire gear to firefighters across the city. It’s a second set of gear for the firefighters to wear after they have responded to a fire and need to clean up.
Conroe Fire Chief Ken Kreger said the department requested $700,000 from City Council a year ago and it was approved as a budget amendment.
“We asked for $700,000 to be able to cover not just bunker gear and personal protective equipment, but also the whole cancer initiative process that tries to prevent us from bringing back contaminated stuff from the fire grounds,” Kreger said. “We have a fire out there, instead of bringing it back to our station where we live. We want to try and clean that up.”
Kreger said the other money was also available for more cancer prevention initiatives.
“We’re basically setting up a system that allows us to decontaminate,” Kreger said. “Once this gear is in a fire, it needs to be cleaned. They’ll put their old gear back on in the meantime and use it in case there is another fire and they have go out on. It’s a whole process to be able to make sure that we try to prevent cancer, you know, there’s diesel exhaust and everything.”
Close to 130 firefighters received the second set of gear.
Conroe Fire Lieutenant Michael Barker said it costs $3,000 for each set of gear, and that’s for a bunker coat and pants.
“We also have gloves and hoods, and those add additional costs,” Barker said. “The hoods, depending on which one we end up going with, it will be between $100 and $200 per hood, and then our gloves are about $120 a pair.”
Conroe City Councilman Jody Czajkoski said this equipment is the best that money can buy.
“It’s all about preventing cancer in the future,” Czajkoski said. “What I’m learning more about this equipment is as they go to these fire scenes, a lot of these different chemicals that could cause cancer in the future get in their skin and sweat and start leaking through their skin while they’re fighting the fires, and it causes problems for them 10 to 20 years down the road.”
Czajkoski said it’s interesting the equipment came in at this time as this month is Breast Cancer Awareness Month.
“Really close to my heart, my father was a pipefitter when I was young and has Parkinson’s now, and I’m pretty sure a lot of that came from the exposure of the chemicals, whereas if they had had some equipment similar to this, it may not have happened, so we’re trying to protect our guys,” Czajkoski said.