Sponsored
Categories: News

Tubbs Fire Left Firefighters With High Toxin Levels, Study Shows

Sponsored
Sponsored

Firefighters who fought California’s second most destructive wildfire in 2017 had increased levels of toxins that could expose them to diseases down the line, according to a study released Tuesday.

Until Paradise’s Camp Fire left 85 people dead in 2018, the Tubbs Fire was the state’s most destructive wildfire. The North Bay fire set off in October 2017, eventually killing 22 people and destroying more than 5,000 structures in Napa and Sonoma counties.

The San Francisco Firefighters Cancer Prevention Foundation surveyed about 150 firefighters on the front lines three weeks after they returned, finding increased levels of mercury and perfluoroalkyl, which is found in firefighter gear and foams. UC Berkeley researcher Rachel Morello-Frosch compared those blood and urine samples to 30 firefighters who were not assigned to the Tubbs fire, preliminarily finding lower levels of the toxins in the latter group, Bay City News reports.

“These can build up in a firefighter’s system and make them sick in the long run,” San Francisco Fire Chief Jeanine Nicholson said. “Either cancer or some other disease.”

Results are still pending for firefighters who fought the Camp Fire and who also gave samples — a practice Morello-Frosch hopes to become a regular. Firefighters face a higher risk of cancer, which the country may better track once the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention launches a voluntary registry.

But the study raises another question for San Francisco firefighters who are called to California’s increasingly destructive wildfires: what equipment will prevent these toxin exposures while allowing firefighters to effectively and safely do their jobs? Firefighters cannot use all their usual gear, like oxygen tanks, in a wildfire environment in order to stay mobile. On the other hand, wildfires are entering urban environments that burn homes and send chemicals into the air.

“Increasingly, urban firefighters are being called on to do mutual aid, and very often without the personal protective equipment that they are accustomed to using in urban settings,” Morello-Frosch said.

Though firefighters undoubtedly bear the brunt of toxic fumes, the problem isn’t so distant for San Franciscans who breathed unhealthy air for 13 days straight during the Camp Fire. The city was criticized for not having an adequate safety response, like handing out N95 masks, especially for homeless people and visitors and is now revisiting emergency plans.

Sponsored
Ida Mojadad @idamoj

Ida Mojadad is the Staff Writer at SF Weekly. You can reach her at (415)-359-2728 or imojadad@sfweekly.com. Follow her on Twitter at @idamoj or at idamojadad.com.

Recent Posts

There Will Be Blood in Dance Nation

A group of high school students was sitting in front of me during Clare Barron’s Dance Nation. They tittered uncontrollably…

2 days ago

The First Chinese Woman in America Was in a Human Zoo. This Play Tells Her Story.

In 1834, Afong Moy was brought from Guangzhou, China, to New York City to be a zoo animal. She was…

2 days ago

Affordable Housing Lags Far Behind High-Income Housing, Report Shows

It's been clear for years that the city must build more housing but a new city report finds that high…

3 days ago

How to Protect Your Business from Personal Injury Claims

Being a business owner puts you in a tough spot. At any given time, there may be an employee who…

3 days ago

The Lighthouse Is A Bizarrely Haunting Nautical Tale

The Lighthouse is both a confusing and straightforward movie to watch, and that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Robert Eggers’…

3 days ago

Here Are Three Must-See Acts This Week

Electronic Jlin (with Honey Dijon) 10 p.m., Friday, Oct. 18, at 1015 Folsom. $20; 1015.com While derived from Chicago footwork,…

3 days ago