Gov. Charlie Baker and Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito announce $920,000 in grant awards to 174 Massachusetts fire departments for new gear at the Marlborough Fire Department on Dec. 10, 2019. The equipment will reduce firefighters’ exposure to cancer-causing chemicals. (Photo: Joshua Qualls/Governor’s Press Office)

On Dec. 10, Gov. Charlie Baker and Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito announced $920,000 in grant awards to 174 Massachusetts fire departments for gear and equipment that will reduce firefighters’ exposure to cancer-causing chemicals on the job.

The Firefighter Turnout Gear Grant program will provide firefighters in 144 departments with new hoods and gloves for structural firefighting activities. These items will reduce exposure to cancer-causing chemicals in the head and hand areas, which are high-risk areas for dangerous chemicals to enter the body.

In total, approximately 3,000 hoods and 3,000 pairs of gloves will be purchased with the $500,000 from this program.

The MMA had advocated for this grant money during state budget deliberations.

The administration has filed a bond bill that would provide $25 million in authorization to continue funding similar grants to allow departments to purchase equipment, including turnout gear and washers/extractors.

“Replacing old and damaged turnout gear is a financial challenge for most every department in the Commonwealth,” State Fire Marshal Peter Ostroskey said in a prepared statement. “These grant awards will ensure that a significant number of firefighters have access to hoods and gloves that will effectively protect them from exposure to dangerous contaminants, and that is one of the best things we can do for them to reduce the risk of a future cancer diagnosis.”

Through the Washer-Extractor Equipment Grant, $420,000 was awarded to 75 departments that will receive a new washer-extractor to clean their structural firefighting gear after exposure to smoke and other toxic chemicals. Because some of the recipient agencies are purchasing regional-use machines, 84 departments will actually benefit from them.

A national standard set by the National Fire Protection Association on the care and cleaning of structural firefighting gear delineates specific types of machines that should be used to effectively remove cancer-causing chemicals after each fire. All washer-extractors purchased with this grant will meet this standard and will enable personnel to wear clean gear each time they leave the fire station for an emergency.

Forty-five fire departments were successful in applying for both grants.

“Cleaning firefighting gear is not a long-standing tradition in the fire service,” said Needham Fire Chief Dennis Condon, president of the Fire Chiefs’ Association of Massachusetts. “Soot and ash-laden gear was once the mark of a seasoned firefighter, but we now know that washing gear after every exposure to smoke is the safest thing to do.”

For more information about the turnout grants, including a list of recipients, visit