Fonner Park hosts the 81st annual State Fire School

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Friday marked the 81st annual State Fire School weekend and from brand new fire trucks, to high–tech gear and classroom education, volunteer firefighters were out at Fonner Park in Grand Island to learn the latest.

The weekend is full of learning new equipment and tactics to keep them and the public safe.

Bill Lundy, with the State Volunteer Firefighter’s Association, said there are nearly 1,200 students here this weekend.

Lundy gave insight into what these men and woman are learning.

"Legal issues concerning running your fire department and your rural boards correctly, do live fire burns, a number of leadership classes on developing the new leaders for the fire service as well as a number of hands-on classes,” said Lundy.

This year, there is a greater concern however, for the health of firefighters.

Lundy said firefighters nationwide have a 20 percent higher risk of getting cancer.

"Old house construction was wood, now with all the plastics and composite materials, the smoke that we're exposed to, even with self–contained breathing apparatuses can be a lot more toxic,” said Lundy.

He said to help get rid of those toxins, they are telling firefighters to wash their gear and to not take it home.

“Wipe your hands, wash your face, weigh your self–contained breathing apparatus through the whole evolution of the fire, not only in an active fire but when you're overhauling and searching to make sure the fire is out,” said Lundy.

One firefighter that drove in from Staplehurst said these health issues go beyond what they can do at home to protect themselves.

He said it has to do with keeping track of firefighter illnesses.

"One of the things they're trying to do with legislation is trying to get, so they can track that data and that's one thing they're putting towards us. If you go to the doctor, let them know you're a volunteer firefighter so they can start tracking the data so we can actually find the root cause of all this. I mean we have some ideas but really finding the root cause is tough,” said Bill Brauer.

Sunday is the last day of training and events, and with most firefighters representing their departments here this weekend, many assure us they will be taking these new skills home for the ones that are holding down the fort.

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