*If you don't feel like reading, scroll to the bottom to see how your dontations will be used.*
Firefighting is dangerous work. Most people would likely agree with that statement. However, most people do not realize what those dangers genuinely are. Burning in a fire or running out of air lost in a building are all too real dangers in the fire service, but fortunately, those fates are rare. The more probable threats may seem mundane in comparison, yet are no less deadly. Sources like the International Association of Firefighters (IAFF) and the Firefighter Support Alliance list the most significant risks to firefighters as heart disease, cancer, and mental health issues such as PTSD, depression, and substance abuse.
For decades, heart disease has been the number one cause of firefighter line of duty deaths. The CDC lists heart disease as the leading cause of death in the United States and according to a FEMA study, a firefighter’s risk of developing heart disease is 300% higher than the general population. The increased risk for firefighters comes from repeated exposure to extreme temperatures, hazardous atmospheres, overexertion, and stress.
As dangerous as burning flames are, the toxic gases and chemicals produced during a fire are just as if not more dangerous. The carcinogens present in modern fuel fire conditions have lead to an epidemic of cancer among firefighters. One NIOSH study shows firefighters have a 9% higher risk of being diagnosed with cancer and a 14% higher risk of dying from cancer than the general public.
Perhaps the saddest statement about the risks that firefighters face is that firefighters are more likely to commit suicide than die in the line of duty. In 2018, a study by Ruderman Family Foundation exposed the high rate of suicide and found that rates of PTSD and depression among firefighters are as much as five times higher than that of the general population.
The Good News
There are things that we can do to lessen the risks firefighters face. Just as training, education, and experience can protect firefighters during an emergency, we can implement training and education to lower the chances of heart disease, cancer, and mental health issues. Emphasizing things like eating right, getting enough sleep, physical fitness, and overall wellness can be the key. The many links between exercise and lowered risk of heart disease are well known. What is not as well known is that there is strong evidence that regular exercise can reduce the risk of several kinds of cancer. A study by the American Cancer Society shows that consistent moderate to intense physical activity decreases the risk of at least 13 different types of cancer, some by as much as 20%. Exercise also has a significant benefit to mental health. The Lancet Psychiatry Journal published a recent study of 1.2 million people in the US showing a link between regular exercise and psychological well-being. The study showed exercise improves mental and emotional health and lowers the risks associated with mental illness.
Created in 2011, Arizona Firefighter Athletics (AZFFA), aims to promote the total health and wellness of firefighters and the communities we serve by promoting fitness and camaraderie. We encourage firefighters to maintain their fitness levels throughout their careers by offering a competitive athletic team to join. To have a training goal or a competition to prepare for increases the likelihood of sticking to a regular exercise or training program. The team also participates in fundraisers helping statewide public safety and youth groups and local businesses aligned with our mission statement of building community and camaraderie through charity and sport. We hope to encourage overall wellness in the general public through coaching, mentorship, and providing places to play, exercise, and be active through our new Fire Fit Parks Project.
Where Your Donations Go
If you dont't feel like reading the novel written above, here is a quick run down of where the money is going.
Fire Fit Parks:
We want to build and improve parks throughout Arizona to provide places for people of all ages to play and exercise. This is where the majority of the funds raised will go. Our inagural park is going to be built in Bisbee. Stay tuned for updates.
Since our inception we have been dontaing a portion of all the funds we raise to Arizona Burn Foundation and the 100 Club of Arizona. We also give to Fetch Foundation and in 2020 we partnered with Local First Arizona to raise money to help small businesses hurt by Covid-19.
Aspire Academy Scholarships:
Aspire Academy in Mesa is a camp put on by the Girl Scouts that gives girls hands on experience to learn about law enforcement and the fire service. We help pay the entry fee for girls to attend the camp.
We have given money to the families of fallen firefighters, provided masks to combat the spread of Covid-19, given out reusable grocery bags to keep our communities clean, and worked with local fire departments on fundraising efforts for their charity and commuinty outreach projects. We are always on the lookout for new ways to serve Arizona.
Check out our website and social media for more information and updates.