I have written several times about my opinions on when to mask up, and when to wear your SCBA, if your new to the site or just do not remember click the links below:
I have known for a while about the dangers of smoke. Even when I got started in the fire service at age 15 I knew smoke was dangerous, I was just too dumb to know, too macho to care, and wanted to prove to all of the older guys at the volley house that I too was a “smoke eater”. So I went to dumpster fires, car fires, and even into some house fires without my mask on, even having to go to the hospital after a shed fire for smoke inhalation when I was 17 years old. At the time I thought that was just things that happened while on the job, as I have grown older, and exposed to more knowledge, research and experience I realize how little I knew, and how absolutely DUMB I was.
There was always the stigma about “yard breathers” when I was growing up, and a lot of times guys are still ridiculed today. Just check out the Urban Dictionary definition http://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=Yard%20Breather
Just reading that tell you it is not something you want to be associated with, or the fireman that you want to be. Take a look at the stickers here:
Again not a group you would want to join, based on the perception.
However perhaps it is time to not only stop the negative stigma of yard breathing, but EMBRACE IT! The Fire Smoke Coalition www.firesmoke.org has been doing some tremendous research on the dangers of fire smoke. They have been putting on a program called “Know Your Smoke” They just recently put out a new video take a look below[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Pz483ZbkwY8&w=560&h=315]
That is powerful stuff! Just the smoke off of one couch cushion, one small stuffed animal was enough to max out cyanide monitors at close range, and they where getting high reading levels outside structures, even away from the source of the fire just walking in smoke that we all walk in, and even mask up in every day!
In my opinion we have to evolve, we have to change, we have to get rid of the macho stigma of the “smoke eater” and transition to a “smoke avoider” No longer should the debate be masking up at the door, at the landing, in the rig. The when to mask up and breathe air should be before you encounter smoke even if outside the structure.
Take a look at this fire[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wsvTCRpYBS4&w=560&h=315]
The smoke is hanging out very low to the ground and even making it difficult to see. That is already the danger zone when it comes to smoke exposure. Without breathing air you will be getting exposed to toxic gases that could cause long-term health effects.
The days when it was acceptable to “take in a little smoke” are over, and in fact once SCBA came along probably should have ended long before now. As I was told by a fire service mentor of mine when I was around 20 years old, as he carried around his oxygen machine that he had to wear at all times “You guys think it is cool, to not wear those masks, well does this look cool (he held up his oxygen machine), I didn’t have a choice, YOU DO” It wasn’t too much longer after that he died. He was right WE DO have the choice, we have the technology to protect ourselves, and detect these gases we need to use them.
No one is perfect, I am far from it, but I will be even more diligent than before about masking up before I enter the danger zone of smoke exposure. Even a little bit of smoke can be life altering.
As usual thanks for reading, spread the word, and STAY SAFE