Susan FosterSusan Foster

California firefighters are used to saving lives, and if SB 649 passes through the California Legislature this week, it looks like the lives they may be saving are their own.

For the first time in U.S. history, a health exemption has been granted to firefighters for their stations in California. The state’s firefighters have a history dating back to the late 1990s of fighting to get cell towers off their stations, and in a preemptive move the firefighters asked for and the legislators granted an exemption from SB 649.

International Association of Firefighters

This legislation, the “Wireless telecommunications facilities” bill, is essentially a telecom takeover giving wireless carriers the right to force cities and counties to lease available lampposts, the right-of-way and public buildings – with the exception of fire stations.

If Bill Passes, as Expected, Veto Needed

The Assembly, in a late afternoon vote Sept. 13, passed SB 649 on an initial vote of 45-23 with 21 abstentions. It now goes to the Senate for ratification of added amendments. It then goes to Gov. Jerry Brown.

Governor Jerry BrownGov. Jerry Brown

Unless Brown vetoes the bill, cell towers will dot the landscape as never before for the questionable purpose of blanketing California neighborhoods, cities and counties with untested 5G millimeter waves. 5G, or 5th generation wireless, is virtually untested on human beings outside the military, although Soviet science is extensive and concerning with respect to heating of the eyes, skin and testes. Electrical equipment the size of refrigerators will be allowed, along with back-up generators filled with diesel fuel.

Bills like SB 649 have been introduced, and some have already passed, in over half the states.

The mighty telecom lobby would prefer the granting of an exemption for fire stations go unnoticed. In fact, the word “health” is not even mentioned in SB 649. An exemption for fire stations is simply granted.

Calif. Firefighters Have Fought Cell Towers

California firefighters have a strong 17 year history of fighting cell towers on their stations, beginning in 2000 when a small fire department sued Nextel for health damages related to neurological impairment after towers were activated adjacent to their stations.

The men suffered from headache, insomnia, brain fog, getting lost in the same town they grew up in, sometimes forgetting protocol in routine medical procedures, mood swings and infertility.

In 2004 a SPECT brain pilot study was conducted on California firefighters who had lived in the shadow of a tower for over five years. The study, conducted by Gunnar Heuser, MD, PhD, found brain abnormalities in all six men, including delayed reaction time, lack of impulse control, and cognitive impairment.

IAFF Demanded Moratorium

As a result, Resolution 15, a collaborative expert/firefighter effort calling for further study and a moratorium on placing cell towers on fire stations throughout the US and Canada, was passed by the International Association of Firefighters (IAFF) in Boston in 2004 by 80 percent.

The Telecommunications Act of 1996 trumps Res. 15, so the moratorium was “in spirit only”, yet the sentiment of the rank and file was clear. In order to do their jobs and serve the public as they were sworn to do, the firefighters did not want to suffer the impairment imposed by RF radiation coming from the towers.

The firefighters’ fight against the towers extended into 2015 when firefighters in Los Angeles threatened to pull their rigs into the streets to block traffic if FirstNET – the first responders telecommunications network – went ahead with plans to put 100’ and taller towers on most stations.

And again in 2017California firefighters are fighting for their right to not only be safe, but to fully serve their communities by keeping SB 649 cell towers off their fire stations.

The burning question that legislators should be asking themselves is this: If we exempt fire stations to protect firefighters, why are we allowing cell towers throughout neighborhoods, in front of preschools, schools, hidden in church steeples, on lampposts, utility poles and on most public buildings if these are too dangerous for fire stations?


Susan Foster is a medical writer who has worked with firefighters on health, safety and policy with respect to cell towers on their stations since 2000. She organized a brain study of California firefighters in 2004 and was the original author of Resolution 15 passed by the IAFF in 2004. She is an Honorary Firefighter with the San Diego Fire Department and a U.S. Adviser to the UK’s Radiation Research Trust.