OLNEY, Ill. (WTHI) - Taylor Akers has been a firefighter at the Olney fire department for almost seven years.
Akers says, "One of my buddies talked me into being a volunteer over in Bridgeport. I heard they had applications open and testing here. So he kind of pushed me to go test over here. And I tested and made it on the list."
Peer pressure aside, it's a position that Akers enjoys. But studies are now saying the job is becoming more dangerous.
Olney Fire Chief Michael Hill says, "Cancer rates for firefighters is going up drastically. And we recognize that."
While on the job, firefighters are exposed to a number of cancer-causing contaminants. This makes it important to get cleaned off. Something that Hill says has been difficult to do.
Hill explains, "We've been able to provide some washing for our firefighter's gear to remove those contaminants. But it's been with residential type units."
A grant from the state of Illinois looks to fix that problem. The department received a small equipment grant to the tune of $20,864. The money will buy a gear extractor and dryer unit. All in hopes to speed up the cleaning process and doing a better job at it.
Hill says, "This is a way for us to get those contaminants off and lower that risk."
For Akers, it helps to keep up in a fast-paced environment.
Akers says, "Sometimes we do have multiple calls back to back. And if their gear is already dirty from one it makes things even more dangerous then they already are."