Local nonprofit on mission to protect firefighters with specialty hoods

Cancer is the leading cause of death among firefighters.

Jeff Roundtree and Bill Hamilton are trying to do something about that.

They started Hoods For Heroes, a local nonprofit established to provide firefighters with critical equipment to help reduce their exposure to cancer-causing chemicals in the neck and face area.

“This is an epidemic problem going on in fire service with cancer,” Roundtree said.

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Roundtree and Hamilton are on a mission to provide chemical-blocking hoods to every firefighter in the country.

“There’s 1.25 million [firefighters], so that’s a big number,” Roundtree said.

Right now, the standard hoods that firefighters use mostly protect against burns.

The new hoods protect against burns, but they also have advanced technology to help reduce head and neck exposure to carcinogens by 99.9%, according to the organization.

The updated design also has a layer that keeps the firefighters cool while fighting fires.

Each chemical-blocking hood runs about $125, which can be a financial burden on smaller departments.

“Someone needs to help cover the shortfall,” Hamilton said. “To show them that someone cares and to hand them a piece of equipment, it’s very rewarding.”

Hoods For Heroes recently donated more than 300 hoods to St. Johns County Fire Rescue and the city of St. Augustine Fire Department.

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St Johns County Fire Rescue spokesman Deputy Chief Jeremy Robshaw said the hoods provide peace of mind.

“It’s another step in the process to protect our personnel. We recognize we have a job that, at times, can be dangerous for us,” Robshaw said.

The organization said it’s receiving requests from around the country and Canada.

“It’s quickly becoming a much bigger mission than was originally thought,” Roundtree said.

He said they're committed to protecting firefighters who risk everything to protect us. If you'd like to learn more about Hoods For Heroes or make a donation, click here.