You & Your Bunker Gear — Part 1

  There are few more important pieces of equipment than our bunker gear. Sometimes, it is the only thing between us and the fire.


  There are few more important pieces of equipment than our bunker gear. Sometimes, it is the only thing between us and the fire. Fire equipment, apparatus and tools are being scrutinized by city hall in an attempt to save money. While we appreciate the need to be "good stewards" of...


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There are few more important pieces of equipment than our bunker gear. Sometimes, it is the only thing between us and the fire.

Fire equipment, apparatus and tools are being scrutinized by city hall in an attempt to save money. While we appreciate the need to be "good stewards" of taxpayer dollars, when it comes to the equipment we use to protect the public, and especially the equipment that protects us, make sure the quality and features of what you are purchasing are the priority. Be sure those participating and making those fiscal decisions genuinely understand the importance of your bunker gear.

It is vitally important for every one of us to ensure that the specifications and performance of our bunker gear meet the fire conditions we are likely to encounter. And that's the trick. Some will tell you that you don't need "those kinds of features" in your gear because your department doesn't do that much fire duty. That foolish logic can end in tragic results. If your department or company does one working fire annually or 10,000 working fires annually, it is at that one fire that you, your training and your equipment will be tested. We are the fire department, we go to fires and we must be protected. Make sure your bunker gear specs are the top priority of your organization. Departments spend so much time on items such as apparatus specs, but also make sure your personal protective equipment (PPE) and those specifications are as important to your department as apparatus specs. And make sure your firefighters properly and fully use the PPE they are issued.

Whatever "it" is: if you are issued it, train on it, use it, wear it and maintain it. use and wear your equipment in any conditions where it may be needed. For example, since your apparatus has seatbelts, use them (and figure out how before you go on a run). Since your apparatus has self-contained breathing apparatus (SCBA) for your use, wear it to protect yourself from breathing bad stuff during and after (overhaul) the fire. Since your department issues you bunker gear and PPE (helmet, chin strap, hood, coat, pants, gloves and boots), if you do not wear them or you do not wear them properly, there is no one else to blame for the outcome if related to your failure to wear. (Most often, it's not that PPE is not worn, but that PPE is not worn properly.)

In this month's close call, it is clear that this FDNY firefighter fully understood the importance of his bunker gear and the fact that it must be fully worn in order for him to do his job. Our thanks to FDNY Commissioner Salvatore Cassano; Chief of Department Edward Kilduff; Deputy Assistant Chief Stephen Raynis, chief of safety, FDNY Safety Command; Battalion Chief Robert Albanese, executive officer, Safety and Inspection Safety Command; Firefighter Peter Demontreux of Ladder Company 132; and the fire officers and firefighters involved in this event.

The following account is provided by the FDNY Safety Command:

At approximately 4:30 A.M. on Aug. 30, 2010, FDNY units responded to a reported fire in a 20-by-50-foot, three-story brownstone-type multi-family dwelling. The building had four stories in the rear. The fire originated in the second-floor hallway approximately 10 feet inside the front door. Fire quickly extended up the open unenclosed stairway to the third and fourth floors.

The OV (outside vent firefighter) was told by the incident commander, Battalion Chief Ed Travers of Battalion 57, that a civilian was last seen at a third-floor front window on the exposure-D side. The chauffeur positioned the aerial ladder to the window. The OV, with properly donned PPE, climbed the aerial and removed a trapped civilian from this window and assisted him down the aerial ladder. The civilian told the OV another person was still in the apartment. The OV donned his facepiece and hood and entered the fire area to search for the second person. Another firefighter, now positioned on the tip of the aerial ladder, completely cleared out the window to allow for a rapid egress.

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