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Thread: Customizing Helmets/Gear

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    Default Customizing Helmets/Gear

    Here recently, for whatever reason, the Chiefs have been pushing for all firefighters to have the same, standardized issued helmets. We are talking identical. We are not allowed to modify, add to our gear in any way either.

    I have a problem with this and wanted to get other peoples opinions. I have been on MANY fire scenes and be walking around and not know who is who. Not knowing who is even backing me up at times. We are small department and only have an average of 6-8 people working on a fire scene and the experience level on the fire scenes is dropping drastically. There are only a few people you can distinguish from one another by their size. When you get to Sgt and Capt you have a little bit of help due to helmet and shield colors. But for the majority of us, it is black helmets with identical shields and yellow tetrahedrons.

    When I have to literally walk up to you and ask "Who are you?" or turn around on the line and ask the same thing then I see that being a problem. There are still some guys that have their own helmets that they have customized and you can pick them out of a crowd of a hundred.

    The reason that the Chiefs are stating that they want the same helmets is for uniformity. I can understand and strongly agree with uniformity while in the public with your regular uniforms. But on the fire ground, I feel the last thing you want is the whole scene being run with firefighters that are a carbon copy of one another.

    What are your thoughts?

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    name on the back of the helmet / name on the back of the coat. inho -easier than trying to remember Fred is the one with the green shamrocks , while Joe has the pink ones
    ?

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    I disagree with the OP.

    Everybody on the same department should have the same gear and the same helmet. You are a department, not a group of individuals.

    Identify by number. Identify by name. Bottom line is there is a need for uniformity.
    Train to fight the fires you fight.

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    Quote Originally Posted by LaFireEducator View Post
    I disagree with the OP.

    Everybody on the same department should have the same gear and the same helmet. You are a department, not a group of individuals.

    Identify by number. Identify by name. Bottom line is there is a need for uniformity.
    I think he was talking to and about firefighters. Thanks for your input but I'm pretty sure he wants the opinion of a guy in the fire service.
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    In my company, all of our gear is Morning Pride Black. We have spare gear which is Morning Pride Tan. each member of my company has purchased their own N5A New Yorker which we wear as a main helmet, some are black, some are natural, some are blue (all colors meaning firefighter) The Chiefs wear White N5A's. Our "Firefighter" shields range in colors. A few of the people on my company have black w/ red pinned insert shields, which are purchased for you once you've shown great interest in the department. The rest of our shields are just Red shields with white lettering.

    Now here's where it gets where we can't control it. Our Boro does not have specific rules/laws/sops for gear/helmet/shield colors. All chief's maintain the white shield, and the white helmet. All firefighters can wear whatever they wan't, aslong as the helmet or shield is not white.

    So far we are doing great. As the three company's in my boro each have their own thing going on, but we all know who eachother are on the fireground. And for the most part, We don't have the problem the OP has, as our names are all on the back of our coats, and all of our helmets differ in such a way where you always know who your following.
    Firefighter 1/ PA EMT-B

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    What exactly is the issue though? Are you saying people should be able to wear any color and style of helmet or turnout gear with any color and style of reflective trim? If so, then i most certainly agree with your Chief. If you all on the same department, you should all be in a similar color and style of clothing and with similar helmets. You should not look like a bunch of homeless people with everyone wearing whatever they want.

    Our departments policy i think is great. You can wear any brand of traditional style helmet so long as it's black. Leather, composite, Cairns, Phenix, MP, whatever. You must have 8 tets on your helmet in the standard location. Red for Truckies, Blue for Rescue and Lime for everyone else.

    As for the rest of the PPE, everyone wears the same brand, model and color of pants and coat. You can wear any brand of gloves, hood or boots so long as it meets current NFPA specs.

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    We have no SOGs on personalization of helmets or other PPE. We have to pay to have coattails added with our names on them. Many of us have bought our own leathers. So long as the colors match the rank, there's never been a problem. If you want all sorts of flair on your lid, go for it. Stickers, pins, whatever. Tetrahedrons, no tetrahedrons, doesn't matter. Some guys have purchased their own leather fronts. I've never seen a helmet adornment that was a safety hazard or made it harder to identify the wearer's rank or unit. Maybe our guys have just enough common sense to keep from screwing things up for everyone else.

    The latest fad is painting leathers flat black. I started doing it a couple years ago, but now everyone and their brother has a flat black lid. Mine is Sherwin Williams Kem Lustral in Wrought Iron Flat Black. I've got black-to-color reflective American flag triangles, but no tets. Bourkes, no goggles. There are absolutely no issues at my department with this setup.

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    We keep it simple - department number on sides, department name on front, FF's ID# on front, name on rear brim. A few "traditional" helmets (1044's mostly) show slight differences (I order frontpieces with the FF's name on them), but since I usually handle the markings anyhow, everything is fairly consistent. Everything in use here right now is plastic.

    AFAIK, a sticker or two noting commemorative events, or a shamrock, etc is OK. Don't expect me to approve some major treatment.
    Opinions my own. Standard disclaimers apply.

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    Quote Originally Posted by tajm611 View Post
    I think he was talking to and about firefighters. Thanks for your input but I'm pretty sure he wants the opinion of a guy in the fire service.
    Yup. Whatever.
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    No brainer here. If the City/county/burg/parish issues the gear, helmet, turnout coat, pants, boots, etc., they have the authority to say how it is to be worn, marked and whatever else concerning this.

    The best way to distinguish member's is by using different color of helmets. White for Chief Officers, Yellow for Line Officers, (Captains and Lieutenants), Black for Engine Company firefighters, Red for Truck Company firefighters.



    You can do a search on this topic as it has been in these forums before, many of times.
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    All PPE should be the same manufacturer, same style, and meet the latest NFPA standards. The helmet colors should follow the scheme noted previously. Any "stuff" you add (stickers), painting it a different color (non-manufacturer work) or other changes that are not part of the NFPA and/or UL approval process can leave you without a warranty and possibly liable for anything bad that happens to you because you altered the product from its approved design.
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    Quote Originally Posted by bcjack View Post
    All PPE should be the same manufacturer, same style, and meet the latest NFPA standards. The helmet colors should follow the scheme noted previously. Any "stuff" you add (stickers), painting it a different color (non-manufacturer work) or other changes that are not part of the NFPA and/or UL approval process can leave you without a warranty and possibly liable for anything bad that happens to you because you altered the product from its approved design.
    Playing devil's advocate...

    Many helmet manufacturers do not make helmt fronts. Since they have a provision for attaching one or leaving space for a stick on one, does placing a FD issued sticker or helmet front on a helmet void the warranty?

    How about placing one's name under the brim, either via a P-Touch label or painted on? Would that in your opinion void the warranty?

    How about helmet rocker decals issued or numbers issued by the FD? Does that void the warranty?


    My FD has an accountability system used by just about the entire fire district that has our tags attached to undeerside of the brim via velcro. I guess we voided the warranties on all of our lids throughout the district...
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    The original thought was allowing custom shields and tets to distinguish helmets from one another. Allow for some individuality and tradition to remain in the fire service while being able to distinguish who is who on the fire scene without having to yell in each others ears to try and retrieve that information. I big thing in my book is designating rookies and probies as to be able to keep a better eye on them during emergency situations.

    I am only talking custom shields and tets. Colors are all to be kept in accordance with NFPA standards ie. black helmet, black shield for firefighters; black helmet, red shield for sgts, etc etc.

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    Quote Originally Posted by CommanderSims View Post
    The original thought was allowing custom shields and tets to distinguish helmets from one another. Allow for some individuality and tradition to remain in the fire service while being able to distinguish who is who on the fire scene without having to yell in each others ears to try and retrieve that information. I big thing in my book is designating rookies and probies as to be able to keep a better eye on them during emergency situations.

    I am only talking custom shields and tets. Colors are all to be kept in accordance with NFPA standards ie. black helmet, black shield for firefighters; black helmet, red shield for sgts, etc etc.
    While everyones taste is different, i personally think the custom Tet and sticker craze has gotten out of control. I understand individuality and expressing yourself, but when i see a helmet with an American flag crown sticker set, 8 different Tets with everything from your nationality to all the certs you have (Extrication Technician, Haz Mat, EMT, Dive Rescue, etc) and even stickers on your brim, the first thing i think of is someone with a serious ego issue. Let your actions speak for themselves. I don't see the need to advertise all your certs and what your heritage is on your head at all times. Who are you trying to impress? I have yet to see a guy with 20 years on the job doing this. Likley because they have nothing to prove.

    I have 8 standard lime green Tets on my helmet and one small sticker (1x2") as a 9/11 memorial i got from an FDNY member towards the rear mostly covered by my helmet band. That's it.

    The fact i don't have an American flag on my helmet does not mean i don't love this country.
    The fact i don't have Russian, German & Italian flag stickers does'nt mean i'm not proud of my heritage.
    The fact i don't have a W6 sticker does not mean i don't care about the Worcester 6. I feel for ANY Firefighter who gives their life in the line of duty. Not having a sticker does not change that.
    The fact i don't have a sticker for every one of my certs does not mean i cannot perform my job in those fields.

    I am not knocking anybody who likes lots of stickers. Do what you like. It's your helmet. It's just not for me. And other then a guy who has lots of multi color stickers, i don't see how a few stickers are going to better help you tell one person from another on the Fireground. Helmet color and Tet COLOR (Not any sort of logo or design in the tet) will help with telling a Truckie from an Engine FF, etc. As for shields? Again, i say go with color. FDNY makes it simple. Red is Ladder, Black is Engine, Blue is Rescue, Yellow is Squad, Orange is Probie, Gold is Chief. Simple and effective.
    rural457 likes this.

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    I tend to agree with WD6956. I don't really see a need to allow a lot of customization of gear. All of our turnout gear is basically the same and we don't allow it to be customized. We use different color helmets and shields to distinguish officers from FFs and we use orange shields to identify probies.

    We do allow members to purchase their own helmet shields and even helmets as long as they meet NFPA and conform to the color standards. I don't notice that those slight differences help me identify certain people on the fireground though.

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    Quote Originally Posted by CommanderSims View Post
    The original thought was allowing custom shields and tets to distinguish helmets from one another. Allow for some individuality and tradition to remain in the fire service while being able to distinguish who is who on the fire scene without having to yell in each others ears to try and retrieve that information. I big thing in my book is designating rookies and probies as to be able to keep a better eye on them during emergency situations.

    I am only talking custom shields and tets. Colors are all to be kept in accordance with NFPA standards ie. black helmet, black shield for firefighters; black helmet, red shield for sgts, etc etc.
    NFPA standards for colors ?
    ?

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    Quote Originally Posted by WD6956 View Post
    While everyones taste is different, i personally think the custom Tet and sticker craze has gotten out of control. I understand individuality and expressing yourself, but when i see a helmet with an American flag crown sticker set, 8 different Tets with everything from your nationality to all the certs you have (Extrication Technician, Haz Mat, EMT, Dive Rescue, etc) and even stickers on your brim, the first thing i think of is someone with a serious ego issue. Let your actions speak for themselves. I don't see the need to advertise all your certs and what your heritage is on your head at all times. Who are you trying to impress? I have yet to see a guy with 20 years on the job doing this. Likley because they have nothing to prove.

    I have 8 standard lime green Tets on my helmet and one small sticker (1x2") as a 9/11 memorial i got from an FDNY member towards the rear mostly covered by my helmet band. That's it.

    The fact i don't have an American flag on my helmet does not mean i don't love this country.
    The fact i don't have Russian, German & Italian flag stickers does'nt mean i'm not proud of my heritage.
    The fact i don't have a W6 sticker does not mean i don't care about the Worcester 6. I feel for ANY Firefighter who gives their life in the line of duty. Not having a sticker does not change that.
    The fact i don't have a sticker for every one of my certs does not mean i cannot perform my job in those fields.

    I am not knocking anybody who likes lots of stickers. Do what you like. It's your helmet. It's just not for me. And other then a guy who has lots of multi color stickers, i don't see how a few stickers are going to better help you tell one person from another on the Fireground. Helmet color and Tet COLOR (Not any sort of logo or design in the tet) will help with telling a Truckie from an Engine FF, etc. As for shields? Again, i say go with color. FDNY makes it simple. Red is Ladder, Black is Engine, Blue is Rescue, Yellow is Squad, Orange is Probie, Gold is Chief. Simple and effective.
    I see this a lot around here too, and I honestly think it is something most of us grow out of. I will amdit, I had alot of the stickers you described on my first helmet when I was 18. My current N6A has white tets (because I like them better), a few Georgia Gs and a Charleston sticker. It isnt that big of a deal the more time you have in.

    That being said, not a single piece of my PPE at work is department issued. We issue brand A of turnouts, I am a fan of brand B. So I bought my own set. Still the same color and meets all requirements. Same goes for my boots, gloves, hood and helmet.
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    I understand the greif on the "decked out" helmets. But honestly, can you show me how that makes him more unsafe than another guy? unless it has some serious bling hanging off the side, I'd say their fine. Those who have a million stickers on their helmet anyway clearly don't do much or you wouldn't be able to read the stickers . My helmet looks as so right now:

    N5A New Yorker w/ black tets
    Streamlight Vantage Light
    Streamlight helmet band (from when I had a regular style light in the band)
    2 Door chaulks
    Brand New (ew) Black w/ Red pinned insert shield. man does a new shield on a used helmet look weird...
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    In my experiences, the Black Tets have held up better then my old lime ones. The helmet light in its current location, does increase the grab hazard, but I'm fully aware of its location and how much it sticks out. That streamlight band has seen quite abit of heat and fire, looks and stretches like brand new. Door chalks are door chalks, they fall out, you replace them. I don't see how any of my "Conservative" modifications have threatened my life as a firefighter anymore than a base model N5A.
    Last edited by Picc.93Truck; 06-27-2012 at 04:44 PM.
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    OK, I can and will admit when I may have taken something a little too far. It may not be that much of an accountability issue. However, if you can do something as small as allowing someone to customize their helmet to their liking without causing a health hazard then why not? We could use all the morale boost we can get.

    While people are mentioning what their helmet looks like. I currently have a black Carnes 1010 I purchased when I first started as our department was handing out turtle shells. They have since started giving out 1040s. I took the yellow tets off and had some custom black reflective maltese crosses and crossed axes that alternate put in their place. I also have a mahogany leather helmet band with my name stamped in it that I made myself that matches my mahogany leather radio strap that again I made myself. I have also made a leather shield, black with a mahogany back ground in the cutouts that I am wanting to put on my helmet. I got approval from the chief for everything but the shield. And the shield looks good! So I have an added personal interest in this subject. I am not just throwing stickers on it like you all said as I have done been through that faze.

    NFPA color standards... I was under the impression that the following color codes was a standard that people were to follow put in place recently. That is what we were led to believe anyways...

    Black helmet, Black shield = FF
    Black helmet, Red shield = Sgt
    Red helmet, White shield = Cpt
    White Helmet, White Shield = Chief

    We do not have lieutenants. The rank structure in our department as as seen. Like I said, that is how it was explained to us.

    And a side note... just because your helmet isn't charred or nasty with soot doesn't mean you "don't do anything." Rather it may mean that you actually take care of your stuff. My yellow tets had some discoloration to them, but my helmet, minus some scratches on the ridge lines from over the years, is still as clean as it was the day I bought it 8 years ago. Nasty gear as a statement of having "done something" is one of the old, naive ways of thinking as it is only covering yourself with fuel. And how about not putting your noggin where it doesn't belong. I have seen numerous guys stand up and walk through the thermal balance to get their helmet charred just to come out afterwards and talk about how hot it was inside and how they couldn't see anything. Really? If you would have gotten down and stayed under the thermal balance you would have seen fine and it wouldn't have been nearly as hot...

    Just sayin...
    Last edited by CommanderSims; 06-28-2012 at 06:53 AM.

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    I have to agree with you CommanderSims. After Re-reading my statement, I suppose that was abit asslike.

    CommanderSims brought up a good point as well. I don't know about your companies, but I know my company has a moral problem sometimes, and honestly letting people do small modifications to their helmet that endangers them in no way can make them feel better about it. Thus helping us. I think as long as you can control it, and know when to say stop, There's no problem with it.
    Firefighter 1/ PA EMT-B

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    Quote Originally Posted by Picc.93Truck View Post
    I have to agree with you CommanderSims. After Re-reading my statement, I suppose that was abit asslike.

    CommanderSims brought up a good point as well. I don't know about your companies, but I know my company has a moral problem sometimes, and honestly letting people do small modifications to their helmet that endangers them in no way can make them feel better about it. Thus helping us. I think as long as you can control it, and know when to say stop, There's no problem with it.

    How can moral be a problem? Granted, I'm not in your dept, but from the outside looking in, you guys have nice gear, nice apparatus, a decent call volume, in a decent looking town, and great pizza.

    Maybe chain of command? I dunno..but that is getting off topic.

    We have a few guys who adorn their helmet with stickers, those eye stickers on the back of the helmet like " I have eyes in the back of my head" look, Honestly, I don't have anything other then the yellow/green tetrahedrons. I have a streamlite on my jacket, and rope in my pocket. I can see putting designator type decals..i.e. red for interior, blue for ems this color for hazmat etc. but once you get away from the basics it kind of makes people look like the "I fight what you fear Tshirt wearers"
    or the Find em hot leave em wet decal guys..whackers..not that you or anyone in your dept is, just saying what it might appear to other FF's and the general public.

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    Quote Originally Posted by BigGriffC12 View Post
    How can moral be a problem? Granted, I'm not in your dept, but from the outside looking in, you guys have nice gear, nice apparatus, a decent call volume, in a decent looking town, and great pizza.
    Great pizza? Must have been talking to Picc.93, but I can answer this question as your generalization of the department fits well.

    I just got done writing an article for the newsletter that my IT Committee is in charge of publishing each month. It is an article that falls under a section we call "Chip off the old block" that is written by a firefighter with 10+ years experience. This firefighter, who is a Capt, specifically has over 30 years with the department. In the article he writes about the equipment that he had to work with while the department was still in it's infancy. Now we have great equipment and good back ups. Things we would have dreamed about 10+ years ago, and yet morale is in the tanks, mainly due to a lack of raises and loss of holidays. People easily forget how good they have it. But, still the same morale is low.

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    I was speaking with our Fire Marshal today and he pulled up the NFPA standard for fire helmets, which is NFPA 1971 I believe, section 6? Anyways, there it clearly states that the helmet is to have roughly 4 square inches of reflective, fluorescent markings visible from all directions. He stated that for a material to be technically fluorescent, it would either be orange or yellow/green, whatever color you call it.

    SO, looks like I will be getting a new helmet soon. I will still be working to have customization approved. The main issue that the Fire Marshal stated was the issue of liability. That if the department did not enforce the standards it is required to follow then it could be held liable. With that in mind. My main theory and argument was to allow firefighters to customize their helmets to their liking as long as it met NFPA standards and the color-coding that the department has put in place. I love the look of my helmet blacked out, but I now understand that it does not meet NFPA standards and therefore it will be retired and used only for training purposes if even allowed in those situations.

    I appreciate every ones input thus far.

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    While the NFPA does some great things as far as codes and standards for fire alarm, sprinklers, clean agent systems, kitchen supression systems and other things; there are times where I read some of the stuff they come up with and think that NFPA stands for Not For Practical Application....
    ‎"The education of a firefighter and the continued education of a firefighter is what makes "real" firefighters. Continuous skill development is the core of progressive firefighting. We learn by doing and doing it again and again, both on the training ground and the fireground."
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    Quote Originally Posted by CommanderSims View Post
    I was speaking with our Fire Marshal today and he pulled up the NFPA standard for fire helmets, which is NFPA 1971 I believe, section 6? Anyways, there it clearly states that the helmet is to have roughly 4 square inches of reflective, fluorescent markings visible from all directions. He stated that for a material to be technically fluorescent, it would either be orange or yellow/green, whatever color you call it.

    SO, looks like I will be getting a new helmet soon. I will still be working to have customization approved. The main issue that the Fire Marshal stated was the issue of liability. That if the department did not enforce the standards it is required to follow then it could be held liable. With that in mind. My main theory and argument was to allow firefighters to customize their helmets to their liking as long as it met NFPA standards and the color-coding that the department has put in place. I love the look of my helmet blacked out, but I now understand that it does not meet NFPA standards and therefore it will be retired and used only for training purposes if even allowed in those situations.

    I appreciate every ones input thus far.
    Seriously. Not that big of a deal. If you have the money sitting around to buy a new helmet simply because of the lack of stickers, you have too much spare money laying around. Got a bailout kit? Much better use of your money.
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