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In honor of Brent: Donation will keep Backus firefighters safe

In memory of their brother Brent Godfrey, Wayne Godfrey and Heather Orth (Godfrey) donated a powerful washing machine to the Backus Fire Department. Fire Chief Jason Smith is pictured in the back.

Former Backus firefighter Brent Godfrey left his blood family and firefighting family reeling when he died Nov. 10, 2016.

Most of the Backus Fire Department was present when Godfrey was laid to rest.

His brother, Wayne Godfrey, and sister, Heather Orth, knew immediately that they wanted to give a donation to the fire department.

"We knew we wanted to do something to thank the firefighters for taking off to go to the funeral, for their spouses who took off time to go to the funeral," Wayne said. "We wanted to thank the community for all they did for us. We asked what (the fire department) was looking for that they couldn't get right now. It took a few months to find out what it would be."

In the end, the Godfrey family donated a seemingly innocuous, but life-saving piece of equipment to the fire department - a washer/extractor for turnout gear that looks like a large washing machine. The extractor, however, is a tool that will help the Backus crew prevent cancer in its own ranks.

"The chemicals in your turnout gear after you fight a fire, they get on your skin and you absorb them through your skin," said Backus Fire Chief Jason Smith. "Keeping gear clean helps fight off all those chemicals, which cause cancer. Washing them in your own home machine puts them into your own machine and it doesn't spin fast enough to get the chemicals out."

This isn't a regular washing machine. Machines designed for fire gear are thousands of dollars new, not only because fire gear is heavy and clunky, but because chemicals require a lot of force to become dislodged from turnout gear.

"This washer/extractor spins fast enough to take out the chemicals and make gear as safe as possible," Smith said.

The importance of this equipment was not lost on the fire department or the Godfrey family.

"It's great for us because we might not have to go to another firefighter's funeral by preventing cancer or something like that," Wayne said.

"It's been a blessing," Smith said. "It's a way Brent can give back to us and his family can give back to us and help keep us safe."