DeLAND, Fla. – A generous new donation to the DeLand Fire Department will help ensure that first responders’ gear is cleaner than ever, which in turn could help reduce their risk of cancer.
DaVita Labs gifted two sets of industrial grade washers and dryers that will help extract dangerous carcinogens that become embedded in the gear firefighters wear while responding to fires and hazardous calls.
Fire Chief Todd Allen said industrial washers and dryers can be expensive to purchase and are currently too pricey for the department’s budget.
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“The DeLand Fire Department is very appreciative of DaVita Labs and their generous donation of the washer and dryer sets that are going to be able to help with the well-being of our firefighters,” Allen said.
Officials said gear decontamination will be a top priority at DeLand Fire Station 81, which will be rebuilt at the northwest corner of Howry and Clara Avenues.
According to the National Fire Protection Association, firefighters have a higher risk of being diagnosed with cancer and experience a higher rate of cancer-related deaths by about 14 percent.
“If we can reduce that risk, that’s essential to keep our firefighters safe and that’s what it’s all about,” Allen said.
Laura Chorost, Environmental, Health and Safety Administrator for DaVita Labs, said she was once a Volusia County firefighter so she knows how hazardous the job can be.
“I remember when the research came out that having our gear being dirty was actually toxic and carcinogens on it and it was potentially harmful. I would put my gear behind my daughter’s car seat in my car and I remember the impact of that and that’s how I started and truly got into safety and into this career path,” Chorost said.
There was no longer a need for the like-new machines so she took the opportunity to donate them.
“I am honored to be a part of a company that not only wants to improve the lives of dialysis patients, but the community,” Chorost said. “Learning that we were not going to be using our new industrial washers and dryers, with the support of the company’s leadership, we decided to donate this potentially life-saving gift to those who save lives every day – our community’s firefighters.”