By Jeff Wagner

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Between calls, there’s work to be done at the Brooklyn Park Fire Station.

Laundry might be the most important task especially after battling a fire, as dangerous carcinogens can coat a firefighter’s turnout gear, creating long-term health risks.

“Cancer is one of the big things, and just obviously any other unknowns,” said firefighter and paramedic Mike Christian.

Cleaning gear before wearing it again is imperative, but the drying part is challenging.

“You cannot put this [gear] in a dryer because it breaks down the protective, not only the abrasive protective, but also the thermal protection,” he said.

Typically, the crew would hang-dry their gear. Christian said that process would take roughly a day.

“We’d have gear hanging off of trucks, hanging off our mirrors. It would look like almost a costume party,” he said.

That’s why Christian used his handiwork skills to build a dryer. Using a bounce house fan and PVC piping with holes drilled in, he fastened together a rack in which air flows through the hanging equipment. Christian estimates it cut the drying time down to four to five hours.

Building a dryer has become sort of a trend for fire departments across the country.

“I had kind of seen a few of these pictures [of custom dryers] online and thought, ‘Ah, we could make one of those,’” Christian said.

Commercial-grade dryers can cost thousands of dollars, but Christian said his contraption cost only $800.

“Literally everything is off the shelf at the store,” he said. “It is what firefighters by nature do, is solve problems. We had a problem where we had gear hanging around everywhere and we don’t have a bunch of money, so we fixed the problem and made one.”

Brooklyn Park has four fire houses, so the goal is to build a drying device for each of them. And if another city fire department wants to build one, Christian saved his materials list and is open to sharing it.

Jeff Wagner