by George Warren

NEVADA COUNTY (CBS13) — When firefighters in the Nevada County Consolidated Fire District return from a call they head straight into what looks like a sauna to ride a stationary bike. But they don’t go in there to relax.

We all know the obvious hazards facing firefighters including smoke, flame, structural collapse, but perhaps there’s one hazard that you haven’t considered.

A memorial in Capitol Park lists the names of California’s fallen firefighters. A similar memorial in Colorado lists the names of those who’ve died from all around the country.

“Since 2002 up to 2018, 65 percent of the names on that wall are cancer-related fallen firefighters,” said Captain Patrick Sullivan, Nevada County Consolidated Fire District.

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Smoke from structure fires is laced with toxins from burning furniture, carpeting, manufactured building materials. Science has shown that even smoke from a wildland fire, once thought to be benign, can also be a silent killer.

“The structure collapses are what you see on the news. It’s the day-to-day exposure cancers that you don’t see,” Sullivan said.

Nevada County Consolidated Fire just bought two of the decontamination units from a Canadian company. They get no warmer than 104 degrees, roughly 40 degrees cooler than a true sauna.

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In a 15-minute session, Corey Jacobsen says he can feel his body sweating out smoke from a fire that he used to carry for days.

“It’s like this odor you smell it and it sticks with you for about a week,” Jacobsen said.

As we said, they don’t come in here to relax because they can be called out again at any moment.

The Nevada County Consolidated Fire District said other departments are using decontamination units, but they may be the first department in our area to try them