Fort Worth firefighter creates time-saving dryer

The Fort Worth Fire Department is getting an upgrade thanks to one of their own.

It’s a new gadget aimed at making the job safer for firefighters.

It looks like something out of Willy Wonka’s factory. But the magic of the new gear dryer is that firefighters can dry their outfits in a fourth of the time it usually takes. It also allows them to cut down on exposure to toxins every time they go out.

The dryer is designed to hold four firefighter suits at time.

Engineer Mike Drivdahl says firefighters were forced to just put their gear outside and let it air dry before the dryers.

“I would hang my gear up because it was wet,” he said. “And when we came back on our next shift it would still be damp.”

And while Drivdahl says sometimes it’s easier to go out with a sooty suit than one that’s soaking wet, there’s a real danger of getting steam burns or hypothermia in the winter.

The man behind it all is Station 17 Engineer Alex Cacho.

Drivdahl says the department’s budget had no room for commercial dryers, which could run anywhere from $1,200 to $12,000.

“He saw a need for us to find a way to dry our gear faster and was able to put together an economical way to do that,” Drivdahl said. “

Cacho has already built three for other stations and seven more are set to be installed very soon.

“We do realize that there is a health risk to fighting fires, and we’re doing everything we can to prevent cancer in our people,” Drivdahl said.

To go along with the dryers, the department is urging firefighters to use their air packs for longer periods of time and making sure they’re in clean air before taking them off.

The next dryer should be in place at Station 29 by the end of this week. The devices cost about $1500 to make.