Retired firefighter raising money for kits to protect crews from cancer-causing toxins

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SURPRISE, AZ (3TV/CBS 5) -

Firehouse Subs in Surprise is raising money to build decontamination kits for west Valley fire crews. 

Ed Cunningham is a Firehouse Subs franchisee. He says when he was an El Mirage firefighter, decontamination items were hardly found in one convenient place.

“Some were in the engineer compartment, some were back in the EMS compartment and were kind of spread out,” says Cunningham.

He’s teamed up with a firefighter brother to put all necessary decontamination items in one kit with a protocol for the best way to thoroughly get rid of dangerous soot.

“From brushing off the large pieces to using neutralizing agents to spray on,” says Cunningham. “There's special kind of wipes now that we can use to wipe our skin that's not hazardous to our skin.”

“What we are finding out now is that we never protected ourselves from the absorption of that smoke through our skin,” says David Rehnke, Arizona’s director of Arizona’s Firefighter Cancer Support Network. “We have to address what we do once the fire's out.”

Rehnke worked for Peoria Fire for 26 years. Today he has stage four kidney cancer. Rehnke says it was determined carcinogens found at fires he responded to likely caused his type of cancer.

“You are part of your fire family, the brotherhood, the sisterhood that's there,” says Rehnke who visits fire departments to educate crews on the dangers of harmful chemicals coming from burning materials.

Cunningham's first goal is to provide kits for every fire engine in El Mirage and Surprise. Those who wish to donate can visit the Firehouse Subs located at 13820 W Bell Rd in Surprise and purchase a tumbler with a sandwich coupon inside for $20 each. For those who cannot visit the location, email Ed Cunningham to set up a donation.

Email: Ed.cunningham@firehousesubs.com

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