Wilmington Fire Chief presented Dogwood Award for protecting firefighters against PFAS

WILMINGTON, NC (WWAY) — NC Attorney General Josh Stein was in Wilmington on Wednesday to present Wilmington Fire Chief Steve Mason with the Dogwood Award.

The Dogwood Award is presented to North Carolinians who are working to keep people in their communities safe, healthy, and happy. The Attorney General selected Mason as a recipient because of his work to protect firefighters from the harmful effects of PFAS.

“They do dangerous work and they are exposed to dangerous chemicals. There’s PFAS, this forever chemical, in the firefighting foam. It’s in the gear, the turnout gear that they wear,” Stein said. “This is a real risk. It’s a real danger and I want to recognize somebody who’s trying to do the right thing by his firefighters.”

PFAS are man-made chemicals that have been linked to cancer and other diseases. According to the Centers for Disease Control, cancer is a leading cause of death among firefighters.

Chief Mason says the department is continuing to work with turnout gear manufacturers to figure out a way to get the PFAS out of the gear. They’re also working with the state fire marshall to replace the firefighting foam that contains PFAS.

“We have decontamination on all of our apparatus so that you can grossly decontaminate your gear when you’re on the scene until you can get back to the station and you can put it in a gear washer which will completely clean and dry your turnout gear,” Mason said.

The chief appreciates the recognition and wants to make sure other people’s hard work does not go unnoticed.

“I’m the leader of this organization and it’s my responsibility to take care of everyone that works here,” Mason said. “However, there are a lot of people that are committed to the health and safety of all of our employees.”

While the department has done a lot to address the PFAS contamination, Mason says they will continue to find new ways to make the job safer.

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