Firefighters suffered asbestos exposure in training

South Carolina firefighters understand that they may be exposed to a host of dangerous substances during the course of their employment. This exposure, however, usually comes from active fires that firefighters work to contain and eliminate. Few, if any, expect that they will have to deal with unknown asbestos exposure during training.

Earlier in 2018, a group of out-of-state firefighters participated in a demolition burn for training purposes. The deputy chief’s friend had previously offered a home that he apparently owned but no longer needed for the demolition training. However, simply burning a home for training purposes is not a quick process. The Environmental Protection Agency requires that any structure being burned must first have any asbestos removed.

That process never happened with this burn. Although the burn was temporarily put on pause after some people expressed concern that the home could harbor hidden asbestos, it eventually went ahead without the proper safety measures. Afterwards, several firefighters submitted asbestos exposure forms. The fire chief apologized but blamed the matter on miscommunication and too many people handling the necessary paperwork. No one in the department has been disciplined for the matter.

Asbestos exposure is no small matter. Victims typically develop lifelong health complications, with many suffering from the fatal cancer mesothelioma. For people in South Carolina who fight this deadly cancer, seeing a fire chief take such a cavalier approach to a serious topic can be upsetting. Compensation is often necessary to fully address the reality of the health affects created by the dangerous substance asbestos, which most victims achieve through carefully pursued civil suits.

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