Avon Fire & Rescue Service (AF&RS) is delighted that one of its firefighters has been awarded the prestigious Churchill Fellowship – the only firefighter in the country to do so.
Firefighter James Linehan, of White Watch at Temple fire station, was awarded the Fellowship to study ‘approaches to preventing firefighters developing cancer as a result of exposure to toxic chemicals’.
With the Service for 11 years, James will travel to Sweden and the USA, following which he will use his findings to help educate UK firefighters to protect their health.
Having applied back in September, James’ Fellowship is supported by Mr Björn Savén and he will start his research in June. He is one of just 16 people in the emergency services category to be awarded a Fellowship.
James said: "I’m delighted to be the only firefighter to be awarded a Fellowship this time and I hope my research can really help to make a difference to the lives of my colleagues in this country.
“There are currently three firefighters at my station who are living with the effects of cancer, and with retirement ages rising, firefighters are being exposed to a lot more, for a lot longer.
“Other countries are way ahead of the UK when it comes to recognising the link between firefighting and high rates of cancer death.
“With the information I gain on my travels, I hope that I will be able to come back and educate UK firefighters on how they can better look after their own health."
AF&RS currently has contamination procedures in place to help prevent the cause of cancer, and has also introduced Hero Wipes across the Service for firefighters to decontaminate themselves at incidents.
Current procedures involve dynamically risk assessing incidents for contaminants, ensuring PPE is worn during incidents, cleaned on scene and removed as soon as possible.
Firefighters should also always shower once back at the station, clean the fire engine and never take dirty kit home to ensure that contaminants don’t spread.
However, the Service knows it can do more.
Steve Nicholas, Health, Safety and Welfare Watch Manager for AF&RS, said: “There is a lot we don’t know about the relationship between firefighting and cancer, and this is a great opportunity to learn more. As a service we are always trying to improve the health, safety and welfare of our staff.
“Firefighters, by the very nature of their work, are often exposed to carcinogens and we are doing everything we can to minimise that risk.
“Research from firefighters like James is always a positive and will help us as a service become better equipped for the challenges firefighters face on a daily basis.
“We are delighted that James has been awarded this Fellowship and we look forward to seeing what his research brings.”
Julia Weston, Chief Executive of the Winston Churchill Memorial Trust (WCMT), added: “Churchill Fellows are inspiring individuals who scour the world for fresh approaches to today’s crucial issues.
“It’s a unique chance to make change happen, and every UK citizen over the age of 18 can apply. The next round of applications will open on 16 May 2019.”