Rehab 12 truck parked on pavement with blue sky in background

Rehab 12 Truck: RFD's New Weapon in Fight to Reduce Firefighter Cancer

The vehicle enables firefighters to decontaminate and rest.

Front view of Raleigh fire's rehab truck

The Raleigh Fire Department has a new truck that can help firefighters reduce their risk of exposure to cancer-causing chemicals. The Rehab 12 truck has several features to help do that, including two hygiene stations, and it also offers firefighters a place to rest and recuperate.

“Our firefighters will often respond to several incidents per shift, increasing their exposure to carcinogens and making them more likely to eventually run out of energy,” explains Keith Wilder, commander of the department’s Health and Safety Division. “It is the department’s responsibility to take care of our firefighters’ physical, physiological, and mental health needs and this truck helps us do that.”

Cancer is the No. 1 risk of every firefighter and currently has a near 75-percent mortality rate, including retirees.

After exiting a fire scene, firefighters go through a decontamination process, which eliminates roughly 85 percent of the toxins on their protective gear. However, that gear is not encapsulating and there’s still the potential for contaminants to make their way inside the gear and onto the firefighter’ clothing and skin. The hygiene stations at Rehab 12 enable firefighters to further decontaminate by scrubbing their hands, arms, face, and neck. 

Cold and Hot Weather Rehabilitation

Jerry Wilder

Keith Wilder, Battalion Chief of the Health & Safety Compliance Office

The $260,000 truck is prepared for both hot and cold weather rehabilitation. It’s equipped with coffee machines, two microwaves, a cooler stocked with water, a freezer, ice, and various types of nonperishable nutrition. It also has a table and folding chairs.

Outside, there are two awnings to provide shade. These are especially needed at highway incidents in the middle of summer, says Wilder. “Often, there are no trees there. The awnings can make it feel 20 degrees cooler than the air temperature,” he says.

Rehab 12 is assigned at Raleigh Fire Station 12 on Poole Road, and it’s dispatched to fires at the two-alarm or greater level, or at the request of the shift’s division chief.

Raleigh Fire Chief Herbert Griffin pushed for his department to get Rehab 12 after having a similar truck at the Houston Fire Department.

"We Needed Our Own Rehab Station"

RFD worked with a local vendor to design the truck to meet their needs. “For years, we had to rely on other agencies, such as Wake EMS, to provide rehab facilities at incident scenes. We’re extremely grateful they were able to do that, but we needed our own comprehensive rehab station,” Wilder says.

According to the Raleigh Fire Department, Rehab 12 is the first truck of its kind in North Carolina. Now some other North Carolina fire departments are interested in getting similar vehicles, and the City of Charlotte is purchasing two of these trucks.

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