Cooking fires are the number one cause of home fires nationally as well as here in Roseville. “It’s typically unattended cooking. You fall asleep or you walk away from it,” says Fire Chief David Brosnahan. National Fire Prevention Week runs October 8-14.
This year’s campaign emphasizes: “Cooking safety starts with YOU. Pay attention to fire prevention.”
Inspections Program is Another Way RFD Prevents Fires and Saves Lives
Roseville firefighters respond to 6,500 emergency calls each year. These calls often involve extinguishing blazes, triaging the sick, and rescuing those in danger. But some of Roseville Fire Department’s more important lifesaving work happens behind the scenes.
Roseville Fire conducts more than 2,000 inspections each year at all multi-family housing, hotels, gas stations, restaurants, and new construction sites to prevent tragedy and loss of life.
Fire Department inspectors also complete licensing inspections for all apartments in the city looking for fire hazards, faulty plumbing, leaky roofs, broken windows, pest infestations, and other things that make an apartment unsafe for tenants.
“It’s not seen day-to-day. Our fire inspectors come and go and conduct their work without the lights and sirens,” said Chief Brosnahan. “It’s work that is absolutely critical to our operations and to the safety of our community. I am confident our inspection programs have prevented significant emergencies and many fires."
Wellness Plan Promotes Firefighter Health and Wellness in High-Stress, High-Stakes Job
Firefighters are committed to saving lives. But as a group, this profession confronts serious health risks including higher rates of cancer, cardiac events, cardiovascular disease, and suicide than the general population.
The Roseville Fire Department has rolled out an innovative wellness plan to prevent firefighter illness and injury and to safeguard the physical and mental health of its 30 firefighters.
“We have three main areas,” Brosnahan said. “We like to call it the triangle of health. It focuses on cardiac, cancer, and mental health.”
Sudden cardiac death represents the most common cause of death for firefighters in the line of duty, according to the National Fire Protection Association. The physical demands, exposure to hazardous chemicals, erratic schedule, and long-term stress of the job are all contributing factors.
To improve cardiac health, Roseville Fire has incorporated daily exercise into their 24-hour work shifts. There’s also an emphasis on better nutrition and hydration, a peer group called Fit 2 Thrive helps to lead those efforts.
This has been a dramatic change at Roseville and in fire departments across the country as multiple studies have brought to light the higher death rates among firefighters.
“Twenty years ago when I started, nobody wanted to have anything to do with it. Now it’s completely part of the culture,” Chief Brosnahan said.
Now, a fitness activities including running, lifting weights, yoga, or CrossFit-style workouts are part of each firefighter’s shift.
“It’s not just 24 hours of clicking the television remote and a bag of potato chips,” Assistant Fire Chief Sjostrom said.
Cleaning Up to Kick Cancer
Another stark statistic for firefighters: “Firefighters are twice as likely to get just about every form of cancer than the average population. We’ve done a multitude of different things to lower that statistic,” Brosnahan said.
They try to minimize contact with hazardous materials. It used to be a badge of honor to have sooty gear. Now, firefighters use special hoses to immediately wash off hazardous material at the scene.
Each firefighter now has two sets of gear so they can thoroughly wash and dry their gear with specialized washers and extractors back at the firehouse.
Firefighters are required to shower immediately after returning from a fire call to minimize exposure to toxins.
“We’ve introduced a sauna, in the basement. The idea is you are sweating out the toxins,” Brosnahan said.
Annual firefighter medical exams include blood draws to check for heavy metals and exposure to other toxins.
A therapist typically only visited the firehouse after a critical incident or when a staff member was struggling to the point where it may impact their work. That often felt too late.
In 2019, Roseville Fire decided to increase access to mental health services for its firefighters. Therapist Jonathan "JB" Bundt now regularly visits the firehouse, going on calls with firefighters, trains with them, and attends meetings.
Bundt also makes himself available to firefighters in person or via phone to talk about work stresses, work-life balance, and even family and marital issues, which can arise in this high-stress time-intensive profession. He hosts regular sessions at the firehouse on health and wellness. He also meets with each staff member one-on-one once a year.
Bundt, a former police officer who specializes in working with first responders, said this proactive model builds trust and helps to address issues before they balloon out of control.
"It’s a proactive strategy vs just a reactive strategy,” Bundt said. “I know everyone’s name. I know the culture, the people. They see me out there on the street with them. I’ve helped them wash their trucks and have been involved in some of the training. Not that long ago, I was out at the live burn training. I got all suited up and went in there to see what it was like. I was on a team.
Instead of saying come to my office and let’s talk about your life, it’s more about me learning about their lives and being part of their lives.”
“Jonathan laid the groundwork for what has been a very successful last couple of years where firefighters are being very open with him and seeking him out for guidance,” Sjostrom said.
Join us for the Roseville Fire Open House on October 14 for fire and EMS demonstrations, truck and station tours, hazard house, bounce house, special guests, and more!
Roseville Fire Station, 2701 Lexington Ave N, October 14, 10:00 a.m. – noon.