SACRAMENTO, Calif. (KTXL) — Tamara Thacher is believed to have died from her job as a firefighter, years after running into burning buildings.
Her memorial last December was a time of reflection, not just of her life and service but the illness that cut her life short.
The Sacramento Fire Department said her cancer is presumed to be the result of exposure to toxic chemicals firefighters potentially encounter every day.
“My goal is never to have another firefighter like Tami Thacher lose their life because of contracting cancer,” Chief Gary Loesch explained.
The department introduced two engines called Clean Cab Apparatus to help keep firefighters safe.
The department estimates the Clean Cab Apparatus costs about $35,000 more than a truck without clean air modifications.
The engines include hoses to rinse firefighters off and ventilated compartments to store contaminated equipment outside of the truck.
“Also, the inside of the cabs have the special HEPA filters that constantly filter our systems … to remove any of the particulates that can be harmful to us,” Loesch said.
The Clean Cab creates the opportunity for firefighters to ride in their trucks without being surrounded by smoky, chemical-filled gear.
“But also, it’s for the citizens because if we get out and have those carcinogens on us and then we go in to help an occupant of a home, we could inadvertently bring those in that home,” Loesch explained.
Though these engines are the first in the region, Loesch said they are overdue.
“When you ask the questions, ‘Why weren’t we doing this 10-15 years ago and was it common sense?’ We honestly didn’t know about it,” he said.
“We could come off a fire ground come into a fire station or our training academy with all our gear on and sit down at the dinner table or go in and train, and we would never take off what we were wearing,” Loesch said. “Slowly, we came to realize that that isn’t what’s healthy.”
Thacher’s sister said Tamara wasn’t one to seek the spotlight but the 31-year veteran of the department, known for mentoring and advocating for others, would have been in favor of an effort to help keep firefighters healthy.
“I wish these things were in place before, but you kind of learn as you go, and I’m just glad she still lives on,” Natalie Johnson said.
“Unfortunately, sometimes it takes tragedy to bring things to light,” Loesch said. “We are learning every day how to address this problem. Now you can see with just these apparatus we are staving to eradicate cancer in the fire ranks, in the fire service.”
The Sacramento Fire Department plans to replace all old engines with ones that include Clean Cab options.