CEDAR CITY – Thanks to the help of a sandwich shop, a Southern Utah fire department received an early Christmas gift Thursday – a specialized dryer for firefighting suits worth nearly $10,000.
The gift donated to the Cedar City Fire Department came via a grant from the Firehouse Subs’ Public Safety Foundation.
Previous to the gift, the crews would have to wait for at least a week for their firefighting suits to air dry, but with the new dryer, that time is expected to be cut down to just four hours, Fire Chief Mike Phillips said.
“It takes a long time to dry that fabric, so when the suits were drying the firefighters were benched just like in a game,” Phillips said, “and when it’s cold out like it is now, it takes even longer. They couldn’t go out because they didn’t have the personal protective equipment they needed to fight fires.”
The fire chief said he used to wait to wash his gear, sometimes for weeks or even months at a time, because he didn’t want to be sidelined during an incident.
However, Fire Marshal Mike Shurtz said during that time Phillips was also exposing himself to dangerous chemicals that can cause life-threatening illnesses later in life, including cancer. Clean suits are critical to helping prevent exposure to dangerous chemicals that remain on the suit until they’re washed.
“If we don’t wash our suit we just get re-exposed to those chemicals every time we put it on,” Shurtz said.
“Your skin is the second largest organ, and it absorbs,” he said. “A 5-degree temperature increase on your skin makes the absorption rate 400 times greater. So we get overheated, we sweat and we get all those chemicals on us and we absorb it into our bodies and it stays with us forever.”
Customers to Firehouse Subs raised most of the money for the dryer by rounding up their food bill to the nearest dollar and donating that money to the company’s foundation.
“All the pennies, nickels, dimes and quarters that people have added on to their receipts helped pay for this dryer,” Phillips said. “We really are grateful for the support of the community.”
The sandwich shop is a franchise-owned business with more than 1,000 stores in the country. Of those, Cedar City has raised some of the most money in the country for its fire department, said Holly Yergensen, the Firehouse Subs franchise owner.
“Our donations from this community are huge,” Yergensen said. “We have a very high percentage compared to some of the other stores. Cedar has huge impact on our foundation.”
Firehouse Subs’ customers also helped donate 150 cases of bottled water to the fire department earlier this year.
Programs like this ease up the city coffers and allow the fire department to have equipment that would take years for them to buy otherwise, Cedar City Manager Paul Bittmenn said.
Through various donations and grants, the fire department has been able to purchase trucks, equipment and even a building.
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