Our new union contract calls for the town to supply the fire department with wild land PPE. We currently allow work boots, cotton\poly pants and long sleeve work shirt or sweatshirt, Advent rescue helmet with safety glasses and work boots and gloves. Some members prefer to wear their turnout coats with boots (rubber or Warrington Pros)
We are well aware of the lack of protection the above gear provides. I am researching the benefits\draw backs of FR cotton and Nomex as well as pants and shirts Vs coveralls. The gear must be NFPA compliant.
We typically respond to about 100 to 125 brush and grass fires a year. 75% are handled by 1 or 2 engine companies with hand pumps or booster line. The other 25% can and have turned into 24 hour events up to 100 acres-small by west coast standards, but big here. A majority of our brush fires are in structural\wildland interface zones. We mostly get fast moving surface fuel fires. Duff fires are common after a long dry Spell. We are looking for a fair trade off between comfort and protection. The terrain here is very hilly, it is not uncommon to have fires burning up near vertical slopes.
What are your experiences, likes and Dislikes? Any recommended manufacturers or suppliers?
Since this is a required item by contract, money is not main concern (you don't hear that too often!).
[This message has been edited by Ken Hanks (edited June 07, 2000).]
[This message has been edited by Ken Hanks (edited June 07, 2000).]
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Thread: Wild Land PPE
06-07-2000, 08:19 AM #1Ken HanksFirehouse.com Guest
Wild Land PPE
06-07-2000, 12:38 PM #2ddavisFirehouse.com Guest
The shirts and pants the US Forest Service uses are 100% aramid (Nomex), the yellow shirts are a 5.5 oz/sq yd material while the green pants are 7.5 and 8.5 oz/sq yd material. They are designed to fit loosely to allow the body to cool. 100% cotton underwear is suggested and long underwear is discouraged. Well fitting leather boots, eye protection, heavy leather single-layer gloves, and a polycarbonate hardhat complete the outfit. All belts, packs, etc, carried should be made from nylon (not polypropylene!), and I strongly suggest fire shelters.
Since we see a lot more danger from health issues caused by overheating rather than from fire, this PPE is a balance between the need to allow cooling and the need to protect from fire.
The reason we don't use coveralls is the difference in weight (for cooling the upper body), the difficulty in getting a good fit with stock coveralls, and so when a pair of pants wears out we don't have to replace the whole thing.
NFPA 1977 compliant shirts, pants, boots, gloves, helmets, and fire shelters can be bought. I understand that there are cotton based NFPA 1977 compliant clothing available, but I haven't heard how they do, or how long before the treatment washes out, it seems like it would have to be pretty heavy to meet the requirements. Personally, I prefer the Nomex, and have used it successfully and comfortably for 12 years.
As with any Firefighter PPE there are as many opinions as there are firefighters. The Forest Service and the BLM have been fighting wildland fires using this PPE for a while and actually, considering the number of people they put on the firelines each year, have a pretty good track record of protecting their people.
06-08-2000, 08:53 PM #3Ray RFirehouse.com Guest
I agree with forest service wildland gear. We order ours through our State Forestry as a GSA item. This keeps the price reasonable. The only drawback is that this gear is not available in the larger sizes. We wear it over our regular clothing so you should go at least one size larger. Anyone requireing XXL or larger in shirts and 44W in pants will have to be ordered from another vendor.
06-09-2000, 02:29 AM #4Aerial 131Firehouse.com Guest
I strongly agree with the use of what ddavis & Ray R are saying.
Also consider not using coveralls, for me and others one piece does not allow me to flex, turn, move when cutting line, digging, hose work, anything. Also, you will be unable to lose a lot of created body heat, and you can not get the air flow moving around you.
Do not go cheap on boots, I am not saying to get the most $$$ pair out there, but do not go low end $$$. You will pay with pain, we did this a few years ago & 100 FF were not happy campers. Currently we are using Diamondbacks with V soles and everyone I know loves them. Some guys need special boots but they are far and few.
I thing you might want to check out the State cauche of supplies or the Feds(USFS, BLM, NPS, etc) buying through them will lower costs.
Do not have the department logo, or names, etc. to gear, creates heat sink for burns, maybe on inside with tracking ## so you will know how old it is and when it needs to be changed out.
Be ready to buy suspenders for pants, belts work but then you have to belt buckles together, rubbing against you.
There are several suppliers of larger sizes, all over the country, cheaper ones seem to be on the West coast.
Make sure you fit people to correct size, remember they are wearing this over their uniform. Don't forget nomex hoods, and goggles/safety glasses(clear lense or ones you can change out). Will FF have cotton long sleeve shirts under PPE, lots of doc on FF with arm burns front glove to short sleeve edge.
In my volunteer department we wear a equipment suspension system like the ones the military have only these are made for wildfire, comes with a place for water bottles, fire shelter, tools, day pack, etc. Cost is high $$80-90 but well worth is with the 300+ calls during the summer plus mutual aid and state mobs. Plenty busy.
Last year Seattle Fire had a 50 ?? acre wildfire in town and they had pictures of FF climbing the hill in bunkers, you could tell some of them were at the end and the fire was still above them, ooh the pain to see them doing that, bunkers in Washington state are only allowed for the first hour and PPE changes must occur or crews change out. They had ordered WADNR but it takes time.
Hope you have any absolute slow summer, but they way it looks that will not happen. Don
06-09-2000, 07:26 PM #5Aerial 131Firehouse.com Guest
Wrong name for the boots we have, called Black Diamonds not Diamondbacks. Don
06-16-2000, 01:07 AM #6J.WattFirehouse.com Guest
Good review of PPE. FR cotton can meet the NFPA 1977 standard. It has to maintain the FR quality through 50 washings. Might be cost beneficial for some. If you look closely at the sizing specifications in the standard the neck and waist sizes are the key for fitting. The rest of the measurements are oversized to provide for an air layer that helps in the thermal protection and air movement to aid in body cooling.
Nomex is a thermoplastic compound that both aquires and disperses heat rapidly, wearing over bare skin is not appropriate.
It is possible for FR station clothing to be "upgraded" to meet the wildland standard as a cost comrimise.
My experience is that the shirt/pants combo is much preferable for the reasons previously posted.
The USFS pants are @ 8 oz/yd which is a good weight for protection and durability. The CDF uses the overpant concept for multi-layers. Fabric at 6 oz/yd is about the best in this use. Shirts really don't need to heavier than the 5.5-6 oz/yd that meets the standard.
Studies showed that a 3 oz/yd cotton undershirt nearly doubles that protection of the shirt.
07-12-2000, 11:28 AM #7HVORSEFirehouse.com Guest
Our Department has used Wildland Gear for about 4 years, and they are a 1 piece coverall. We for one do like the convience, but I will agree, you do lose mobility, and they do retain the heat. Look long, and hard for something before you invest. Our coveralls are about $200 a piece.
07-19-2000, 03:34 AM #8FyrFytnFirehouse.com Guest
Again, USFS has the right idea if you want to save yourself some time and headaches. Here in SoCal most agencies create their own specs or group together to make purchases. Most differences are cosmetic though (pocket placement, etc).
I wrote the spec on our last issue of brush gear. Its a two piece nomex garment, to get the best fit for the most people (we have nearly 1000 to outfit). The jacket has velcro tabs at the wrist, no wristlet (heat dissipation), tall collar with throat tab, zippered front with FR velcro secondary closure, two chest pockets, agency ID on the back (lettering is sewn onto a panel of like nomex material, then sewn onto jacket to eliminate heatsink issue), and 1-1.5" Scotchlite trim on arms at glove wristlet level (placement is critical to prevent heatsink burns)and the circumfrence of the torso. It is strongly recommended that personnel wear a long sleeve 100% cotton t-shirt under their jacket.
Pants have large cargo pockets on the side of both legs, zipper and snap front, elastized waist (nice for those varying sizes), second layer like-material knees, zippers on the bottom of both pant legs, outboard for ease of donning/doffing with boots on (fabric must bellow behind the zipper, so that those who don't zip their legs closed will still be protected), and Scotchlite around the bottom of the legs.
Station uniform is all nomex (shirt and pants), and the nomex station pant is required under the brush pant.
Boots were a BIG deal here. We had several delaminations of soles of work boots from the leather upper (I won't mention brands here, but you have all heard of them). The reason we can best figure is that station boots had the soles glued instead of stitched or nailed now. A massive push by our local and the dept secured gov't funding to provide all employees White 8" brush boots. Makes a world of difference to have the right tools for the job!
Web gear is a mixture of federal GSA, local made and individual preference. Every firefighter working an incident MUST be wearing a fire shelter-period.
We are wear testing the HotShield also. I have used one for several years and find it to be a great tool. It is a facial protection device, that also filters out some of the big chunks from smoky environs. Its made of nomex Advance (the nomex-kevlar blend) in multiple layers, and has a pocket to hold an organic vapor filter. It does not prevent CO or other gases from getting into your lungs, but I can attest that when the $&$*% hits the fan, and everyone else is gagging on the smoke, you can move enough filtered air to still be functional. If interested, you might try a search engine for "HotShield."
Feel free to e-mail me if you have any questions. Stay safe!
PS-Our history with FR cotton is that unless you have strict control on washing methods and use, your money is better spent on nomex. It wears like steel, has a higher tolerance to heat stress, and mantains its FR characteristics much longer. We just wear tested FR cotton vs. nomex station uniforms, and nomex won hands down for durability and looks at the end of the test. I would say FR is the exception here, rather than the rule.
[This message has been edited by FyrFytn (edited July 19, 2000).]
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