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Sault Ste. Marie fire fighters transition to PFAS-free turnout gear

June 24, 2024

Sault Ste. Marie Local 529 adopts new turnout gear

Sault Ste. Marie, ON Local 529 members have become the first Canadian IAFF affiliate to transition to PFAS-free turnout gear, making the change last month.

As reported by the International Association of Fire Fighters (IAFF), this transition marks a significant step towards enhancing firefighter safety.

Local 529 Vice President Mark Morgenstern commented on the achievement: “Today our members are wearing gear that won’t make them sick and that’s a big win for us.”

He emphasized the collaborative effort between labor and management to prioritize safety in making this change.

Support from local government and city officials

Discussions about switching to PFAS-free gear began between Local 529 members, Sault Ste. Marie city administration, and Fire Chief Peter Johnson following a joint advisory from the IAFF and the Metropolitan Fire Chiefs Association in August 2022.

While city officials supported the initiative immediately, the gear was not available right away.

Once carcinogen-free gear became available, the city council approved $300,000 to purchase PFAS-free turnout gear for all 80 firefighters in Sault Ste. Marie.

Innotex gear was chosen after a thorough evaluation of the options. Johnson held a press conference on May 8 at Fire Hall 1 to announce the arrival of the new gear, stating: “There is no difference [between the old gear and the PFAS-free gear] in the protection.

“The level of protection is exactly the same. This purchase is a reflection of our commitment to protect our most valuable asset — our fire services staff.”

Positive feedback and future plans

Local 529 members have been using the new gear in the field for almost a month. Morgenstern noted: “Our members so far are saying that the new gear feels and operates like the old gear, but it does seem to feel a little warmer.

“Knowing that, we just monitor hydration and signs of heat exhaustion more closely. It’s worth it for the safety benefit.”

The Sault Ste. Marie Fire Department plans to replace the firefighters’ second set of gear with PFAS-free options as their current gear ages out.

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