Fire Service Hand Protection for All Types of Operations

By Alan M. Petrillo

Hand protection is an important part of every firefighter’s personal protection equipment (PPE), and no matter what type of operations the firefighter is involved in-structural, wildland, rescue, or specialty rescue-the gloves must be designed to fit the task at hand.

Karen Lehtonen, director of products at Lion, says that fourchette-style gloves, commonly described as 3D gloves, are becoming more popular with firefighters as the desire for increased dexterity grows. She notes that Lion, which has been making firefighting gloves for 32 years, offers a full line of structural firefighting, wildland, technical rescue, extrication, and emergency medical services (EMS) gloves.

Structural Gloves

“Lion’s new Rebel structural firefighting glove offers supreme thermal protection with thermal protection performance (TFP) over 60 and conductive heat resistance (CHR) well above National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) requirements, especially in the back of the hand where additional protection is provided,” Lehtonen says. “The Rebel’s multipiece, ergonomic fourchette design mimics the three-dimensional shape of one’s hand, making it easier to perform fireground tasks with less stress and hand fatigue.”

1 Lion makes the Rebel structural firefighting glove
1 Lion makes the Rebel structural firefighting glove, a fourchette-style glove often called a 3D glove, that mimics the shape of a firefighter’s hand to make fireground tasks easier. (Photo courtesy of Lion.)

The Rebel glove is made with a double layer of para-aramid knit and leather reinforcements in high-wear areas, allowing the glove to have an excellent grip and durability, Lehtonen adds. “By using the Crosstech Insert with Film Technology, the Rebel glove can remain lightweight and flexible with breathability and liquid penetration resistance,” she says.

John Zbozien, director of marketing and business development for Fire-Dex, says his company’s next-generation 3D glove is the Dex Pro, a new pattern structural firefighting glove with all new materials compared with the company’s first 3D glove, the FDX G1.

2 The MX-XT Mechflex extrication glove made by Lion uses a 3D design for dexterity and flexibilit
2 The MX-XT Mechflex extrication glove made by Lion uses a 3D design for dexterity and flexibility; has a 100-percent nylon shell; and has Spandex padding on the back for abrasion, cut, and tear resistance. (Photo courtesy of Lion.)

“With the Dex Pro, we beefed up the outer shell,” Zbozien says, “with three-ounce cowhide for the palm, the back of the glove, and the knuckle guards. It’s tanned with additives that allow the material to go through repeated wet and dry cycles yet stay soft and flexible. It adds a lot of durability without sacrificing flexibility, giving the glove an already broken-in feel.”

Fire-Dex’s G1 glove has a stitch bonded Kovenex-R double layer thermal liner, but for the Dex Pro, Fire-Dex changed the interior to an interlock weave of two Nomex layers down the back of the hand. “This is the same fabric used by the U.S. military today,” Zbozien points out. “It’s very flexible, and there is no restriction when bending the hand or making a fist.”

The last element of the Dex Pro glove is its single layer, breathable polyurethane Vapor Flex liner, Zbozien says. Dex Pro is available with a Nomex wristlet or a leather gauntlet. “Generally speaking, fire departments are moving toward 3D gloves,” he notes. “When firefighters try them on side by side with 2D gloves, they select the 3D gloves because of their flexibility. That’s the way the market is moving.”

3 The Dex Pro structural firefighting glove made by Fire-Dex
3 The Dex Pro structural firefighting glove made by Fire-Dex is the company’s next-generation 3D glove; its cowhide outer shell is tanned with additives that allow the material to go through repeated wet and dry cycles yet stay soft and flexible. (Photo courtesy of Fire-Dex.)

Fire-Dex continues to offer a line of 2D legacy gloves with its Honor glove line. Two-dimension gloves are essentially two pieces of fabric-a top and a bottom-sewn together, Zbozien says, where a 3D glove adds a layer of fabric in between the length of the fingers for a truer fit. “The 3D glove’s comfort is unmatched,” he says.

Teresa Lawson, product marketing manager for Honeywell First Responder Products, notes that Honeywell makes a 3D glove called the Super Glove, along with a 2D line that includes the GL9900, 9500, 8700, and 7500 series models.

“The Super Glove has been a bestseller for us,” Lawson says. “It is true 3D construction from the inner liner to the outer shell that gives great dexterity and fit.” Lawson says the Super Glove uses a thinner kangaroo leather that allows for greater dexterity because it isn’t as stiff as cow leather. “Kangaroo leather is very durable and gives a great grip, even when it’s wet,” she says.

In the company’s 2D line of gloves, Lawson says models 7500, 8700, and 9500 are the bestsellers. “The 7500 is a split cowhide glove, the 9500 uses kangaroo hide for better grip when wet and greater dexterity, and the 8700 series comes in elk or cowhide with a convertible cuff where you can wear it as a wristlet or a gauntlet,” she adds.

Summer Reynolds, owner of Glove Crafters Inc., says her company makes both 3D and 2D structural firefighting gloves. “Fire Armor is our top-of-the-line 3D glove with a Kevlar back and a form-fitting curved finger design,” she says. “The one-piece black shell is made from FR water-repellant 100-percent Kevlar knit fleece 7.5-ounce fabric with great flexibility. It also has an Eversoft leather knuckle band sewn across the back for knuckle protection, and the back is lined with a layer of six-ounce modacrylic nonmelting and nondripping liner.”

4 Glove Crafters Inc. makes the Fire Armor 3D structural firefighting glove with a Kevlar back and a form-fitting curved finger design
4 Glove Crafters Inc. makes the Fire Armor 3D structural firefighting glove with a Kevlar back and a form-fitting curved finger design. (Photo courtesy of Glove Crafters Inc.)

Glove Crafters also makes the Fire Raider, another 3D glove with a curved finger design and inset thumb for enhanced finger dexterity. It features a flame- and heat-resistant Eversoft cowhide leather palm and welts sewn into the middle and ring fingers for extra seam strength.

Fire Hog and Fire Pro II are the company’s 2D glove offerings. Fire Hog has many of the Fire Raider features but in a 2D design, and Fire Pro II is made of a split-grain leather back without a knuckle guard.

The Wildland glove by Glove Crafters Inc.
5 The Wildland glove by Glove Crafters Inc. is made out of Eversoft cowhide leather with black leather palms, gold leather backing, and a four-inch-long double layer knit Kevlar wristlet. (Photo courtesy of Glove Crafters Inc.)

Tom Ragan, president of Shelby Glove, says his company makes firefighting gloves “so they mimic the shape of the hand.” Shelby Glove introduced the Shelby Flex-Tuff a couple of years ago, a glove Ragan says was engineered from the feedback of firefighters in the field. “It’s actually a multidimensional glove because each finger is designed differently from the next. The little finger has three sides to it, the ring and middle finger have four sides, the thumb has two sides, and the index finger is a tapered trigger finger with a top and bottom.” Designing the fingers differently gives the glove a greater balance between protection and dexterity, Ragan maintains.

Shelby Glove also makes traditional 2D structural firefighting gloves. “The Style 5284 is a second-generation 2D glove that has the most flexibility in the industry without sacrificing protection,” Ragan says. “We use a minimum of a 31⁄2-ounce leather on the palm and the back of the glove to provide durability. We also use Kevlar Simplex on the back of the hand, which is the same material used on military fighter pilot gloves. Beneath that layer is a high-tech Kevlar-Nomex spacer material-two outer Kevlar surfaces that sandwich Nomex in between.”

6 HexArmor manufactures rescue gloves
6 HexArmor manufactures rescue gloves, including its 4011 model with a palm made of SuperFabric, reinforced by TP-X for abrasion and oil resistance. The glove also has an Exoskeleton and smash guard for impact protection. (Photo courtesy of HexArmor.)

Scott Gohl, principal at Dragon Fire Gloves, says Dragon’s flagship structural firefighting glove is the Alpha-X 3D glove. “It helps to have a more anatomically correct glove,” Gohl observes. “The hand has a natural curvature to it when it’s at rest-it’s not flat. With our Alpha-X design, after the first dozen or so wet-to-dry cycles, the glove conforms to the user’s hand, much like the way a good pair of leather boots conform to your feet.”

The Alpha-X has a premium Italian top grain cow and swine hide outer shell with wear and grip pads on the fingertips and thumb. “It has excellent cut/rip/abrasion resistance,” Gohl says, “and offers extreme dexterity with no sacrifice of protection.” The Alpha-X has a TPP rating of greater than 60, Gohl points out.

Another feature of the Alpha-X is its thermal urethane vapor barrier, Gohl says. “It’s a proprietary formulation specifically designed for the fire service with robotically welded seams and gives superior liquid penetration resistance,” he adds.

7 Shelby Glove makes the Shelby Flex-Tuff structural firefighting glove-a 3D glove
7 Shelby Glove makes the Shelby Flex-Tuff structural firefighting glove-a 3D glove that mimics the shape of the hand by designing each finger differently to give greater balance, dexterity, and protection. (Photo courtesy of Shelby Glove.)

Michael Mandlman, president and owner of Tempo Gloves, says his company has been making gloves for firefighting and the high-heat industry since his grandfather started the business in 1936. “We have several options in structural firefighting gloves,” Mandlman says. “We have our Max and Mini Max wool-lined gloves and the Combat Challenge glove in both a Max and Mini Max design. The differences are that the Max models have a four-inch rib-knitted Nomex wristlet, where the Mini Max omits the wristlet.”

Tempo’s structural gloves are made from Aqua Temp leather, Mandlman says, that allows the gloves to maintain their flexibility and gripping power. “And when they are wet, they protect even more,” he adds. “Out of the box dry they have a 36.7 TPP level, which rises to the 80s after they become wet.” Mandlman notes that because Tempo doesn’t use a moisture barrier in its gloves, they aren’t NFPA-compliant. “Fire departments decide for themselves if that works for them and if the gloves meet their needs,” he says.

8 The Shelby Glove Wildland
8 The Shelby Glove Wildland model is available in either a wristlet version or one that omits the wristlet (shown). (Photo courtesy of Shelby Glove.)

Wildland Gloves

For wildland use, Glove Crafters makes the Wildland glove out of Eversoft cowhide leather with black leather palms and gold leather backing. The Wildland has a four-inch-long double layer knit Kevlar wristlet with a leather pull patch on the palm side. Welts are sewn into the middle and ring fingers and thumb for extra seam strength and durability.

Shelby Glove’s wildland firefighting glove is made out of three-ounce domestic brushed pigskin, Ragan points out, “so the gloves don’t shrink under normal working conditions.” He notes the Wildland gloves are “entirely sewn with Kevlar and are made in a different color than our structural gloves-with a black front and popcorn color back-so they are easily distinguishable.”

9 Honeywell First Responder Products' Super Glove is a 3D structural firefighting glove made of kangaroo leather for greater dexterity
9 Honeywell First Responder Products’ Super Glove is a 3D structural firefighting glove made of kangaroo leather for greater dexterity, durability, and grip. (Photo courtesy of Honeywell First Responder Products.)

Gohl says Dragon Fire Gloves plans on introducing a wildland firefighting glove. “We’ve been working with CAL FIRE and others on its design,” he says, adding that the glove will be made of split grain cowhide “that’s extra soft and heat resistant.”

Mandlman says Tempo Gloves makes a Wildland firefighting glove in unlined versions out of Aqua Temp leather. “It’s durable yet soft to the hand and can go through many wet-dry cycles,” he says.

Extrication Gloves

Lion also makes the MX-XT Mechflex extrication glove for rescue work, Lehtonen points out. The extrication glove uses a 3D design for dexterity and flexibility; has a 100 percent nylon outer shell; and has Spandex padding on its back for abrasion, cut, and tear resistance. The MX-XT Mechflex also has padded knuckles with stretch for extra impact protection from jagged metal and broken glass, which are often associated with extrications; a heavy-duty, black synthetic leather palm and side-walls; Armortex®/Kevlar®-reinforced palm and finger patches for dexterity and puncture resistance; a high-visibility lime green reflective material on the back of the glove for visibility; and a slip-on debris-control elastic cuff for easy donning and to keep gloves free of wreckage fragments and rubble.

Dragon Fire Gloves has introduced its second-generation First Due Rescue glove, says Gohl, which uses the same Kovenex thermal liner as its structural Alpha-X glove but in a lighter weight. “It gives a level of thermal and flash protection that’s not found on any other rescue glove,” he says. “The palm is made of premium synthetic leather and has strategically placed wear pads. The knuckles are protected with a form-fitting impact-protection pad finished in wear-resistant premium synthetic leather.” The glove also comes in a BBP model that has an additional lining to protect against bloodborne pathogens.

HexArmor, a manufacturer of rescue gloves, offers four products in that line called EXT Rescue, says Michael Ens, HexArmor’s extrication glove representative. “We got into industrial safety gloves 10 years ago and then acquired SuperFabric, a proprietary material for industrial gloves with 20 times the cut resistance of leather gloves,” Ens says. “We came out with the EXT Rescue line in early 2013 with four models.”

The 4011 model offers the highest level of impact protection HexArmor makes, Ens says. It’s palm is made of SuperFabric, reinforced by TP-X for abrasion and oil resistance. The glove has a full-impact Exoskeleton with IR-X smash guard for impact protection, Ens notes, along with double-stitched exterior and interior seams and reinforced index finger and thumb saddles.

Ens notes that the 4012 is the lightweight model glove in the line, while the 4013 is an all-around glove that adds GPX material on the fingertips. The model 4014 was introduced this year, he says, a completely waterproof glove with a pathogen barrier and a full PBX palm for an excellent grip.

HexArmor has considered making structural firefighting gloves, Ens points out, but will wait until it can innovate on gloves on the market before introducing its own model. However, he says, HexArmor hopes to have a rope rescue glove available within the next two years. “We want to innovate on existing models,” he says.

Rope Rescue Gloves

For rope rescue, Gohl says Dragon Fire Gloves worked with a number of fire entities to design its rope rescue glove-the Special Operations unit at the Fort Lauderdale (FL) Fire Department, the University of Illinois and its fire service program, and several urban search and rescue teams in California. “We have a new design coming out that’s a 3D deerskin glove with underlying Kevlar layers on the palm, on the back of the hand, and inside the thumb,” Gohl notes. “There’s a closure at the wrist and an eco-friendly mesh on the knuckles that repels water.”

Lehtonen notes that Lion’s extrication glove can be used in technical rescue situations, such as high-angle rope work or confined space applications; however, the glove does not comply with NFPA 1951, Standard for Protective Ensembles for Technical Rescue Incidents.

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.

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