ANDERSON, S.C. (WSPA) – First responders run toward danger when the rest of us are trying to get away.

However, fire departments across the Carolinas, and the country, have learned something else. It’s the trouble they can bring home.

“Cancer is a chronic illness and you’re out for long periods of time and out of work,” Anderson Fire Chief Charlie King said. “You lose that paycheck.”

The problem could even be worse.

Occupational cancer has become the leading cause of death for firefighters, according to the International Association of Firefighters and the Firefighter Cancer Support Network.

Cancer has surpassed heart disease and is now blamed for more than 74% of firefighter deaths in the line of duty.

Chief King said his firefighters brought a plan to him to help deal with the problem at a weekly brain-storming session called Think Tank Thursdays.

First Responder Friday: Anderson Fire Department’s DECON Procedure

“They created a system with DECON buckets and a method that once the job is over on the scene of a fire that they would leave those contaminants on the scene,” King told 7NEWS.

Firefighters who exit an interior structure firefight have their uniforms and equipment scrubbed down with soap and a hose at the scene of the fire.

They use dishwashing soap, Dawn in the case of the Anderson Fire Department, to do the job.

It’s not as harsh as some cleaners on firefighting suits they hope can last ten years.

The fire suits are put straight into the washing machine as soon as crews return to the station and the truck interiors also get a wipe-down after fighting a fire.

There is also a change in attitude for firefighters.

Captain Joey Burdette said it used to be a point of pride among firefighters to have a dirty fire suit. That’s not the case now.

“(It’s a) change of culture as in I have a badge of honor in being dirty,” according to Burdette. “As to hey, I’m washing this off to protect me in the future.”

“(Cancer) has both financial implications for the individual through missed work time and financial impact to their family,” according to Chief King.

“We have seen firemen have lost their houses, their cars.”

There is also some help from the state of South Carolina.

First Responder Friday: Anderson Fire Department’s DECON Procedure

The South Carolina Firefighter Cancer Health Care Benefit Plan went into effect two years ago.

It provides a one-time benefit of $20,000 for a qualifying cancer diagnosis. That covers ten different types of cancer.

It also pays up to $12,000 of out-of-pocket medical expenses and there is a $75,000 death benefit.