This week, the Evansville City Council approved $155,000 for specialized dryers and washing machines called extractors.
Firefighters are twice as likely to contract testicular cancer, according to a 2006 student from the University of Cincinnati. Officials say the new machines greatly reduce the risk. One Evansville firefighter knows the risk all too well.
Danger has a face and dedication has a name in EFD Captain Larry Zuber.
"I've had three sick days in 21 years," said Zuber, the president of Evansville Professional Firefighters Local 357. "I love coming to work every day."
His passion burns hotter than any fire ever could. His passion drove him to the top. His passion is relentless.
"A long time ago, it was a badge of honor to wear that sooty, dirty gear that you made a lot of fires," said Zuber. "The days of firefighters jumping off the truck, going into a fire in gear that's sooty and dirty, that's a thing of the past. They just don't understand. 'Is a little bit of dirt is going to kill me?' It's not going to kill you today but it might kill you in 10 years."
That's because of the mounting evidence. In the soot are the silent clues that contribute to firefighters having higher risk of cancer. Armed with studies and his story, Zuber went before the Evansville City Council. He lobbied for specialized washers and dryers that mitigate those silent risks.
His passion proved successful.
"It was something that I thought $155,000 is a lot of money," said Zuber. "In the scheme of things, I don't think so in the multimillion dollar budget in the City of Evansville."
"I will be a champion for the union and for the EFD to make sure my members, the members of the EFD use that equipment that they are given."
So much in life depends on the message. Even more depends on who's sending it...
It was ten minutes after 12 and, I remember this, my doctor was gone for the weekend," said Zuber as he thought about a voicemail he recieved two years ago. "Those were the results of my biopsy. I had to wait the whole weekend to find out. Do I? Don't I?"
It would be moderately aggressive prostate cancer. The very thing Zuber loves so much could have killed him.
"Dr. Cook from IU made mention to me that I probably had prostate cancer for 10 years," said Zuber. "And that would have been 9 years after I started at the fire department."
"Did the job give it to me? I don't know. Did it not? I don't know. I can't conclusively say either way. I can say I didn't have a family history of it."
After successful surgery, he's recovering. For Zuber, being a firefighter will always be a risk worth taking.
"Does it upset me? Absolutely not. I have one thing that a lot of people don't have. I love my job."
The installation of the new dryers and extractors should begin early next year.