By Rachel Wulff

NORTH SACRAMENTO (CBS13) – Two new fire engines unveiled by the Sacramento Fire Department on Thursday were designed to protect the men and women from exposure to cancer-causing substances.

Firefighters showed off the new equipment as part of their 8 a.m. push-in ceremony at Station 20 on Rio Linda Boulevard in North Sacramento.

The ceremony is a tradition in firehouses, based on history. Horse-drawn carriages used to respond to fire calls. Times have changed, but one thing stays the same – firefighters’ exposure to cancer-causing chemicals. Natalie Johnson knows that all too well.

Johnson’s sister Tammy passed away in November after battling occupational cancer.

“She was amazing,” Johnson said.

Tammy had been a firefighter for 31 years and loved helping people.

“She would stay the course. She would see you through a problem and stay with you through it all and not give up on you,” Johnson said. “She just had the ability of reaching in and seeing the core of you, before you even knew it.”

Johnson was on hand when the two new engines arrived at Station 20. They are what’s called a ‘Clean cab apparatus’ designed to keep carcinogens away from crews. In these new engines, the breathing apparatus has been moved to a back compartment.

“We moved the firefighters’ turnouts out of the crew compartment to an outside compartment. We have a filter on the inside now that filters the air,” said Deputy Chief Chris Campagna.

Each new engine cost $700,000 and will be paid for by the city.

“They cost more, however, if it saves one firefighter going forward suffering the effects of cancer, it’s worth it,” said Chief Gary Loesch.

Families of firefighters who have died are glad to see the protection.

“They do so much to protect us it’s really amazing to see them protected now,” Johnson said.

The unveiling was a moment that prompted Johnson to reflect on her sister.

“But she lives on. She lives on through all of this and she keeps doing what she does and that is reach people and touch people,” she said

As part of the city’s initiative for cancer-reduction in firefighters, capture systems have been installed at exhaust points in firehouses without property ventilation systems.

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