MONTAGUE — When you think of protecting firefighters you probably think helmets and turnout gear. But what about sunscreen?
To protect its firefighters, and the public, from skin cancer, the Turners Falls Fire Department has installed sunscreen dispensers at the Montague Safety Complex.
Money for the dispensers came from a grant from the Melanoma Foundation of New England, a nonprofit aimed at reducing the incidence of melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer.
The department has installed two new sunscreen dispensers, and firefighters are already using them.
“For us here, because we are in and out so much, the guys could at least put some sunscreen on before they go,” said John Zellmann, deputy fire chief, explaining that the firefighters could spend many hours during the summer out in the sun. They often find themselves fighting brush fires and responding to other calls that might bring them outside.
Not only are the firefighters responding to emergency calls, they are participating in outdoor training excises on a regular basis and even mowing the lawn outside the fire department building.
According to the foundation, the incidence of melanoma, the most deadly form of skin cancer, is rising faster than that of any other cancer.
Sunscreen is just one way for the public and first responders to protect themselves from potentially dangerous rays. “The guys put it on and hopefully it helps,” said Zellmann.
The foundation selected Turners Falls Fire Department as a recipient of the free sunscreen dispensers for public use as part of the nonprofit’s “Practice Safe Skin” program expansion to 54 new locations.
“We hope sunscreen dispensers will become as commonplace as hand sanitizers over the next few years,” said Deb Girard, executive director of MFNE.