Rockford firefighters suit up with new, life-saving gear

Behind the Badge

ROCKFORD, Ill. (WTVO) — On average, the Rockford Fire Department responds to a fire every 33 hours.

The City of Rockford is now investing more money to pay for new gear to keep firefighters safe during the most extreme conditions.

The department now has $150,000 to spend on new uniforms, or “turnout gear.”

Each set costs roughly $2,300. Each member has two sets, so if one is damage or needs to be cleaned, the firefighter has a spare.

The gear can withstand 500 degree heat for about five minutes, and over 1,200 degrees for five seconds.

First responders say that will allow them to enter the most extreme fire conditions.

Chief Derek Bergsten says the ability to give replacement turnout gear to his crew is crucial.

New studies show that old or uncleaned gear can lead to serious health issues down the line.

“We are very cognizant of the carcinogens that we’re exposed to in fires and we are very diligent that we get that gear cleaned, because it has been linked to causing cancer in firefighters,” Bergsten said. “So, when they are at a fire and they are exposed to the carcinogens, they send the gear to get cleaned and then they have a spare to wear. “

Currently, the department has eight new recruits which will be starting in the next 30 days. Each one will get two new sets of turnout gear.

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