First responders charge into hazardous situations to save the lives of others. Firefighters and other first responders are generally more likely to be exposed to carcinogens, as burning buildings often emit hazardous or cancerous substances. But a recent report indicates that San Diego firefighters were unnecessarily exposed to asbestos in their own training facility.
Investigation found decades-long asbestos danger
A local news investigation revealed that more than 10 years of negligence put thousands of firefighters in harm’s way while they trained at the San Diego Fire Academy. The facility was rife with hazardous asbestos in the walls, ceiling, and floors that candidates and instructors were exposed to daily. The report indicated that city officials were aware of the cancer-causing agent and downplayed the risk. After evidence came to light that the former Naval Training Center (NTC) used to train first responders was exposing them to the deadly agent, at least one instructor requested to be relieved of his on-site duties because of growing health risk dangers.
According to NBC News 7, the department’s Cancer Awareness and Prevention Manager alleges he was taken off asbestos abatement last year shortly after filing a fact-based document that highlighted the extreme health hazards at the facility. For decades, all SDF firefighter put in hundreds of hours training in buildings that housed health dangers and concerns were not adequately resolved.
Internal documents have been secured that confirm the first responders and their families’ worst possible fears. The city knowingly dragged its feet for upwards of 15 years without implementing a comprehensive plan to rid the facility of deadly, cancer-causing asbestos. Upon learning about first responders being knowingly exposed to cancer-causing agents, San Diego Fire Captain and local union president Jesse Conner was reportedly furious and suggested inadequate short-term solutions were used. In the wake of the asbestos exposure scandal, the city has closed the facility until further notice.
First responders at risk
Although no future first responders will be exposed to asbestos at this facility, the deadly substance continues to contaminate structures across the country. Tragically, the brave men and women who trained to save the lives of others are now at risk of losing theirs. As mesothelioma and other asbestos-related illnesses often take decades to manifest, these brave men and women now must live with uncertainty.