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By Alan M. Petrillo
From cut and abrasion protection to more breathable coats and pants, technical rescue and wildland PPE mirror many of the attributes of structural firefighting turnout gear but embody their own attributes that meet the needs of firefighters performing nonstructural firefighting tasks.
Technical Rescue Gear
Mark Dolim, national sales manager for Globe Manufacturing Company, says technical rescue turnout gear has caught on “because 90 percent of calls don’t require structural personal protective equipment.” Dolim points out that the specifications for technical rescue gear are covered by National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) 1951, Standard on Protective Ensembles for Technical Rescue Incidents (2013 ed.). Globe’s TechRescue jacket and pants also meet NFPA 1999, Standard on Protective Clothing for Emergency Medical Operations, he says.
“Rescue and recovery gear doesn’t have a thermal barrier,” Dolim says, “but it does incorporate a barrier for blood-borne pathogens, provides more breathability through a moisture barrier with a soft and pliable facecloth that comes in contact with the skin, is lighter, and has a fire-resistant outer shell. Some fire departments have their firefighters use technical rescue gear for auto extrications and other nonstructural calls, which can prolong the life of their structural firefighting gear.”
Utility gear has a fire-resistant outer shell, Dolim notes, but is designed more for search and rescue functions with highly visible trim and tailored to be comfortable, usually with elastic in the waist, so no suspenders are needed, and padding in the knees. “Departments take a blank slate garment and customize it as they want,” Dolim says.
Jim Sonntag, owner of PGI, Inc., points out that his company’s technical rescue gear is designed to allow the greatest mobility for its user. “Every garment is anatomically designed,” Sonntag says. “The shoulders, elbows, and knees all have pleats to allow freedom of movement. There are no seams on top of the shoulder-they are at the bottom or behind the shoulder to allow for expansion and to interface better when a firefighter has to wear a self-contained breathing apparatus or carry a bag with shoulder straps.”
Sonntag notes that PGI’s technical rescue gear, which meets NFPA 1951, has a flatter configuration to its pockets “so they don’t catch on things” and does not use metal zippers. “All our zippers are made of fire-resistant Zytel® DuPont fiber,” Sonntag says. “It’s stronger than brass or metal, won’t crimp or break, and is self-lubricating.”
Rescue and Wildland
Michael Laton, senior product manager for body protection at Honeywell First Responder Products, says Honeywell has been making tricertified gear (NFPA 1951 and 1999, as well as NFPA 1977, Standard on Protective Clothing and Equipment for Wildland Firefighting) for more than 15 years, regularly updating the turnouts with new materials, features, and options. “Certain features of our Morning Pride structural firefighting gear, such as the ergonomics like the free range of motion crotch and variegated hem design, carry over into our technical rescue gear,” Laton says. “The crotch of the pants is designed with extra material in a diamond design that allows for deep bending, and the variegated hem is longer in the back to prevent the coat from riding up when the firefighter bends over. Both elements give the firefighter an increased range of motion.”
Laton points out that utility gear is made up of a single layer of material, usually fire-resistant cotton or Nomex® fabric. “Rescue and recovery gear has both an outer shell, like on utility gear, and also a moisture barrier, like Crosstech SR, that gives protection from liquids and blood-borne pathogens,” he says. “Then there’s a third level of protective gear in NFPA 1951 for chemical, biological, radiological, and nuclear (CBRN) gear that incorporates an outer shell and moisture barrier with a higher level of protection.”
Hayley Fudge, vice president of business development for Lion, notes that Lion recently launched its Versa Pro line of gear that is certified to the NFPA standards for technical rescue and wildland operations. “Versa Pro is similar in cut to our structural turnout gear with some of its mobility features,” Fudge says, “like the bi-swing back that is pleated in a couple of locations to give more room in the shoulders so when the firefighter reaches forward, the pleats expand to allow a greater range of motion.”
However, Fudge points out, Versa Pro is a lightweight garment with no moisture barrier or thermal liner. “The outer shell gives the appropriate level of protection yet allows the firefighter to stay as cool as possible and move easily in the gear,” she says. “There’s also extra padding on the knees to prevent abrasion when crawling.”
Versa Pro’s outer shell is made from Sigma, a new fabric from Safety Components, Fudge says. “It feels like a high-thread-count fabric sheet, but it has high durability and much improved tear strength. It’s a fabric used widely in military clothing,” she says.
Todd Herring, director of TECGEN XTREME Protective Apparel, says all the turnout gear his company makes is compliant with NFPA 1951 and NFPA 1977 standards. “We offer six different ensembles and three coveralls in our XTREME series,” Herring says, “with three jacket and three trouser configurations.”
Level 3 XTREME is TECGEN’s top of the line and its most popular product, Herring points out. “We make it using a patented flame-resistant TECGEN fiber, which is the fundamental technology in our product. We weave our own fabric and blend our own yarns, then cut and sew the garments so we control the fabric through the whole process.”
The Level 3 XTREME gear’s elbows are reinforced with rubberized Kevlar®, Herring says, as are the gear’s knees, which also have waterproof knee pad inserts. “We reinforce the hem of the pants and the instep where the legs will rub against the firefighters’ boots,” Herring notes. “All our XTREME products are single-layer with reinforced areas that focus on heat stress reduction, which is one of the most pressing hazards first responders face. XTREME gear allows them to work longer and cool them more efficiently so they are more mobile.”
Tech Rescue and EMS
Abby Lehman Buzon, assistant marketing communications manager for Fire-Dex, says her company makes technical rescue and emergency medical service (EMS) gear in the same pattern. “Its collar and sleeves are similar to our FX-A structural turnout gear,” Buzon says, “but it’s much more flexible. There’s also extra padding at the elbows and the knees, and the gear has a different style pocket.”
Fire-Dex’s technical rescue and EMS gear both have a blood-borne pathogen barrier in addition to the fire-resistant cotton or Nomex outer shell, Buzon adds.
John Therrien, national sales manager for Lakeland Fire, says his company makes the Fyrban 911 series extrication suit in both a jacket-and-pants combination and as a one-piece coverall. “Fyrban 911 gear is made in fire-resistant cotton fabric with a bi-wing back, padded elbows, lined sleeves, hook-and-loop adjustments at the wrists, side-entry pockets with pass-through closures, two rear patch pockets with flaps, and semiflapped bellows pockets on the thighs,” Therrien says. “We are in the process of upgrading the features on the Fyrban 911 series for greater comfort and more visibility.”
Wildland gear doesn’t require a moisture barrier or thermal liner under NFPA 1977, Laton points out. “Wildland firefighters aren’t inside a structural fire so they aren’t exposed to that intense heat inside a closed building,” he says. “They’re also not exposed to the household chemicals that are released inside a structure on fire.”
Wildland firefighters do need a highly breathable fabric in their gear, Laton says, because they often have to do a lot of hiking to get to their area of operations where they perform a lot of heavy physical work. “Our wildland jacket and pants are made in highly breathable fire-resistant outer shells,” he notes. “They are available in either Nomex IIIA in navy, black, or yellow or fire-resistant 88/12 treated cotton/nylon twill in navy, black, yellow, or royal blue.”
Buzon says that Fire-Dex’s wildland gear is compliant with NFPA 1977 and constructed using a single layer of Nomex or fire-resistant cotton. “There’s no padding at the knees or elbows, although fire-resistant knee patches can be added if the department wishes,” she says. “The pockets are different from our technical rescue and EMS gear too, like there’s no need for a scissors pocket on wildland gear.”
Therrien notes that Lakeland Fire makes two kinds of wildland gear: Brushmaster and Smoke Jumper. “Brushmaster is a one-layer garment made from Nomex, Indura fire-resistant cotton, or Tecaface Plus from Tencate, which is a softer, more flexible fabric with good fire resistance characteristics,” Therrien says. The Smoke Jumper gear is available in either Nomex or Indura fire-resistant cotton fabric.
Sonntag says PGI makes its Fireline wildland gear compliant with NFPA 1977. “We will custom make wildland turnout gear in six-ounce Nomex IIIA or nine-ounce Indura,” he says. “The coat has a four-inch-high collar that can be worn down for venting, has articulated elbows for freedom of movement and a more contoured fit, and a gusseted cuff to allow it to be opened for maximum ventilation.”
Fireline Wildfire Overpants have partially elasticized cuffs to allow them to be secure without restricting movement, Sonntag says, along with articulated knees, an inside knee pocket for knee pads, welt-style rear pockets with spade-style flaps, and front slash pockets with spade-style flaps.
ALAN M. PETRILLO is a Tucson, Arizona-based journalist and is a member of the Fire Apparatus & Emergency Equipment editorial advisory board. He served 22 years with the Verdoy (NY) Fire Department, including in the position of chief.