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Cancer-cautious fire stations are the new normal in Goodyear

Ribbon cutting of Fire station 181 in Goodyear (Courtesy photo/ City of Goodyear)

PHOENIX – Goodyear fire trucks have started responding to emergencies out of their brand new fire station located on 143rd Avenue between Van Buren Street and Celebrate Life Way.

Fire station 181 is the city’s newest fire station and was designed by firefighters for firefighters.

The 15,855-square-foot facility includes innovative safety features that focus on firefighters’ long-term health, the second-such station to open in Goodyear this year as service began at a similar station on Willis Road east of Rainbow Valley Road in January.

The new cancer-cautious fire stations in Goodyear feature decontamination corridors that allow firefighters to decontaminate their turnout gear as soon as possible when returning to the fire station after a fire.

Entrance halls now separate the “clean” living side of the station from the “dirty” business side.

Personnel decontamination corridors also allow firefighters to wash any contaminants off their bodies as soon as possible.

“As we continue to grow and plan new stations, this will be the template that we use,” Goodyear Fire Chief Paul Luizzi told KTAR News 92.3 FM on Wednesday.

The new procedures and safety features echo the city of Goodyear’s new clean cab fire truck system that requires firefighters to store their gear in separate compartments within fire trucks in order to limit exposure to contaminants.

The city is also focusing on preventing cancer in the fire department after being significantly impacted by occupational diseases.

“We, unfortunately, have suffered a few cancers in our 124-fire personnel family – we’ve had four cancers that have affected our members,” Luizzi said.

In 2019, 35-year-old Goodyear firefighter Austin Peck passed away after a nearly four-year battle with a rare sinus nasal cancer.

Due to the chemicals and other unknown materials burned during fires, cancer in the fire service has become extremely common.

Since 2002, almost two out of every three firefighters who died in the line of duty died of cancer, according to the International Association of Firefighters.

Gov. Doug Ducey signed a law last month that ensures Arizona firefighters have healthcare benefits while battling cancer they contracted from their job.

Many cities and insurance companies for years have denied firefighters their worker’s compensation benefits when battling cancer.

To date, insurance company CopperPoint has denied Goodyear firefighter Gilbert Aguirre worker’s compensation claim. The city hires CopperPoint to handle its worker’s compensation claims.

Aguirre was diagnosed with chronic myeloid leukemia in 2015. He has no family history of cancer. He believes he contracted the disease from the job.

Roughly six years later, he continues to fight in court for worker’s compensation.

Despite being at high risk with a suppressed immune system, Aguirre has continued to work in hazardous duty while taking a monthly pill that costs nearly $14,000 to keep his cancer manageable.

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