Firefighters in Flint, Michigan are working with Securitex officials to analyze and exchange the faulty Securitex bunker gear they recently purchased through a $228,000 city grant.
The department shelved the new gear earlier this month after some of the coats sustained fire damage and dye sublimation, and one firefighter suffered second degree burns to both arms.
Flint Fire Chief Bob Elizondo said that before they purchased the gear, two department firefighters tested samples for nine months and were completely satisfied.
The gear the department then purchased was supposed to be exactly the same, except that they tested brown coats and ordered navy blue. Within a week, however, a difference in quality appeared to surface.
"It wasn't holding up like the gear that we tried," Elizondo said. "Was there something changed? I don't know."
Elizondo said Securitex representatives immediately came out to discuss the problems and to conduct an anlaysis to determine any differences between the gear the department tried and the gear they bought. The department is waiting for those results.
Elizondo said they plan to exchange all 125 sets of bunker gear for another variety from Securitex once they finish testing other samples.
"We need a product we can be certain is going to protect us," the chief said. "If my guys tell me they don't like it we'll be going somewhere else."
Elizondo said he has been satisfied by Securitex's response. "As a chief I'm asking for some solutions here and they're assuring me we'll get some," he said.
"We're just trying to solve this thing and get back to doing what we do," the chief said.
The bunker gear the department purchased was lighter-weight and faster-drying than their old gear, Elizondo said. He said these features are extremely important to his department because they average 2.17 structure fires per day, which ranks them number one in the country for fires per firefighter according to Firehouse Magazine, he said.
Elizondo said Flint was the original home of General Motors and now has an old infrastructure and 7,000 vacant homes. "We do a lot of work here. This is a department that fights a lot of fire," he said. Next year the all-career, 125-member department will celebrate its 150th anniversary.