Boston firefighters are getting state-of-the-art breathing gear to help protect them while battling fires and the dangerous smoke they generate, officials said Friday.
Mayor Martin J. Walsh and Boston Fire Commissioner Joseph E. Finn announced a $4.5 million contract to provide new respiratory equipment to the Fire Department.
The equipment, which firefighters received Oct. 22, is part of the Fire Department’s extensive efforts to lower the threat of cancer among firefighters, as well as the threat of muscle and joint injuries, Finn said.
Since 1990, 160 Boston firefighters have died from cancer and 20 more are diagnosed with some form of the illness, Finn said.
“This is what this is all geared around: reducing the occupational cancers,’’ Finn said.
The mayor, in a prepared statement, also cited long-term health benefits for firefighters as a key reason for investing in new equipment.
“This new respiratory equipment will help ensure their safety on the job,” Walsh said. “Cancer, carbon monoxide poisoning, and other physical injuries are serious threats to our firefighters. This technology is a significant upgrade for our first-responders.”
Finn — who was interviewed at the Engine Co. 33 station, which lost two men in a 2014 fire in a Back Bay brownstone — said the new equipment probably would not have saved those men, but will help others.
“Probably the largest component is the ability to have longer-duration breathing apparatus from 30 minutes to 45 minutes,” Finn said. “They will be less inclined to take their mask off their face and try to tough it out. Now, they’re going to have some additional time to actually complete their task or assignment.’’
Richard Paris, president of the Boston Firefighters Local 718 union, said the equipment is also expected to protect firefighters from joint and muscle injuries.
“When you’re fighting a fire, it’s adrenaline driven, and you’re under a lot of pressure and you don’t realize you hurt yourself until you come back,” Paris said.
Lieutenant Kenny Hayes agreed the air supply will make a big difference.
“We’ll be able to stay in the fires longer. I know that sounds crazy, but guys usually don’t want to leave,” Hayes said. “You’re working inside under less than ideal conditions, and they find out over time that air quality after the fire is knocked down is actually worse than some of the quality of air while we’re fighting the fire.”
Hayes called the air quality “an invisible danger” that firefighters regularly face.Olivia Quintana can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @oliviasquintana.