Read the full article by Belinda Hawkins (Australian Story)

“Melbourne firefighter Mick Tisbury has always known his work is dirty and dangerous. Running into a thousand-degree inferno presents some obvious risks. ‘If you’ve got half a brain, you’d be running out,’ he says.

It’s not just the flames and the heat. Firefighters are exposed to thousands of carcinogens on the job. In July, the World Health Organization classified firefighting as a cancer-causing occupation.

By and large this just comes with the territory, Mick tells Australian Story. ‘If a chemical storage facility goes up in flames, we have to do whatever is needed to put it out.’

But there are some risks he firmly believes no firefighter should have to take. ‘Training should be safe. And the special foam we use to extinguish chemical fires should not pose a risk to human health or the environment when there are perfectly good alternatives.’

Mick joined the Melbourne Metropolitan Fire Brigade (MFB) at 21, following in the footsteps of his father Keith, a district officer. Mick had ‘pedigree’, says his 1989 recruit course alumni, David Hamilton. ‘He always had an opinion and if he saw something wrong, he’d challenge it, or at least question it.’

So when Mick started to hear a firefighting training facility in rural Victoria might be contaminated with dangerous chemicals, exposing the truth became an obsession. One he would pursue so single-mindedly it would eventually have unexpected blowback, leaving his family, and himself, fearful for their welfare.

Mick acknowledges he put noses out of joint, but his rationale for sticking at his investigation was simple. His job was to protect firefighters and his community. When he came across an unfamiliar chemical compound name in secret documents, Mick realised Victoria was caught up in a contamination disaster facing people worldwide.

He set his sights on finding solutions for everyone. And along the way he’s helped find an ingenious solution to help firefighters ‘rid’ their bodies of what’s been coined ‘forever chemicals’.” …