Pittsville family pays it forward
By Hub City Times staff
PITTSVILLE — A Pittsville area family is giving back in honor of a family member to prevent firefighters from the disease that claimed their loved one.
The Pittsville Fire Company was in need of particulate hoods to protect the firefighters from material that could cause cancer.
“The hoods provide more protection from cancer-related materials,” explained Chief Jerry Minor. “Over the years, building construction has changed to where we have more plastics, we have more synthetics; and, it has been discovered, not just recently but for some time, that the amount of cancer-causing material that develops during a fire is significant. That, in turn, creates a significant exposure for us.
“Normally a properly-protected firefighter coat, boot, pants has that type of protection. The area that we were the weakest in was the head, neck, and face; those areas had minimal protection. When studies were done to determine the amounts of cancer-causing materials that were present, the need for a newly-designed hood developed.”
As the department researched the proper grade of hood, they discovered a significant cost would come along with it.
“We chose hoods that we thought would provide the highest level of protection and it is something like 97-99 percent to our firefighters when properly worn,” Minor said. “Anytime a new standard or an upgrade comes along, a significant cost comes with that. We went from hoods that cost us $25 to hoods that cost us $100. In comparison to cancer, money is not an issue; but, from a budget standpoint, it is an issue.”
That is where the Heuer family stepped in. In memory of their father, Laverne “Joe” Heuer, who had passed away from cancer, the family donated the funds for 33 hoods.
To minimize the possibility of skin absorption, the hoods are longer and unlikely to become untucked from their gear, in addition to meeting material requirements.
“All fire departments are going to have to go in this direction,” stated Minor. “They are going to have to replace their hoods with the new particulate hoods.
“We are just so fortunate to have people around here like that, that are able to help us with those types of things.
“Their tribute is an enormous gift.”