A firefighter’s helmet is designed to protect him from heat, falling objects, and other types of hazards on the fireground. Manufacturers of structural firefighting helmets are tweaking current models and designing new ones that add protection for greater safety and make them more comfortable to wear for long durations.
Jason Traynor, general manager of global respiratory protection and fire helmets for MSA Safety, says MSA’s Cairns® XF1 fire helmet has a jet style design that provides a lower center of gravity and more coverage on the back of the head. “There’s no large brim, so it makes it easier for a firefighter to maneuver in confined spaces,” Traynor points out. “The XF1 has integrated lighting with front and side illumination to improve situational awareness and integrated communications with an internal headset to maximize firefighter interaction. Its contoured style comfortably fits 99 percent of firefighters, and the soft goods in the helmet are easy to disassemble, clean, and reinstall to allow firefighters to comply with decontamination and cancer awareness programs.”
1 MSA Safety makes the Cairns® XF1 fire helmet in a jet style design that provides a lower center of gravity and greater coverage on the back of the head. (Photo courtesy of MSA Safety.)
Traynor notes that MSA also makes the Cairns N5A New Yorker™ leather helmet with an engineered impact cap to provide advanced thermal, impact, and penetration protection as well as the Cairns 1010 composite fire helmet, which has a patented shell release system that retains the impact cap if the helmet is torn off during an incident. In addition, MSA also makes the Cairns 660 Metro™ in a noncorroding through-color fiberglass composite shell with a patented shell release to allow escape from snag hazards. Future projects at MSA for fire helmets, Traynor says, include researching team talk for firefighters operating in a structure together, seeking additional ways to integrate technology into helmets, and considering the possibility of a heads-up display for the Cairns XF1 fire helmet.
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Todd Herring, director of marketing for Fire-Dex, says that his company offers two styles of fire helmets—traditional and modern designs. “There are a lot of similarities in the features of both styles in terms of their construction,” Herring observes. “The modern style is a little smaller and lighter weight than the traditional leather style helmets, but the same technology is used for the suspension where the impact shell that the fiberglass cap is attached to can break away and the wearer still has a thermal impact cap to continue to provide protection.”
On both models, Fire-Dex’s six-way overhead suspension straps allow for a secure, customized fit, Herring points out, while a three-piece headband with a ratchet assembly allows for easy adjustments, from 6½ inches to 9 inches, and the front headband height is adjustable to fit all self-contained breathing apparatus (SCBA) face masks. Both styles of helmets have Nomex® chin straps with one-hand release buckles and postman slide adjustments.
2 Fire-Dex makes both traditional (shown) and modern design fire helmets with fiberglass shells, thermal impact caps, and three-piece headband and ratchet assembly. (Photo courtesy of Fire-Dex.)
Liberty Malenich, product marketing manager for helmets, boots, gloves, and hoods at Lion, says Lion makes the American Legend®, American Classic™, American Heritage™, and American Legacy™ models of fire helmets. She says the American Legend weighs only 53 to 59 ounces, depending on the configuration, and has an impact-resistant low-profile SMC sheet molded compound shell with a powder-coated finish, which results in lighter weight. “The helmet features a three-position height adjustment and a patented Center of Gravity™ suspension system, with an adjustable ratcheting headband with Nomex foam wrap that ensures a custom fit and covered ears,” Malenich says.
The American Classic’s composite technology is from a lightweight fiberglass resin helmet in traditional styling, Malenich notes, while the American Heritage is a durable leather fire helmet in the traditional style and the American Legacy is a low-profile modern style helmet whose shell uses resin transfer molding technology to provide color pigmentation throughout the shell.
3 The American Legend® fire helmet made by Lion weighs only 53 to 59 ounces, depending on the configuration. (Photo courtesy of Lion.)
Jim Walter, director of sales for Honeywell First Responder Products, says that Honeywell has kept its focus on the design and redesign of the traditional style U.S. fire helmet. “For more than 20 years, our Morning Pride® Ben 2 fire helmet with EZ-Flips™ has had a dedicated following,” Walter says. “Its shell is made of FYR-Glass™, a proprietary custom-blended material that has shown to be 39 percent more resistant to impact penetration than conventional fiberglass helmets and that offers superior heat performance. The Ben 2 has a six-position suspension with a one-piece headband and ratchet assembly that can be adjusted without disassembly.”
4 The Morning Pride® Ben 2 fire helmet made by Honeywell First Responder Products is made of FYR-Glass™, a proprietary custom blended material, and incorporates EZ-Flips™ eye protection. (Photo courtesy of Honeywell First Responder Products.)
Honeywell also makes the EV1 traditional helmet in a sturdy, lightweight, low-profile design and the Morning Pride Lite Force LR Low Rider Modern helmet with a lower center of gravity and a six-position suspension that allows for a 1½-inch adjustment for a custom fit.
Matt Ernst, product manager for fire helmets at Bullard, says Bullard makes the RETRAK® series fire helmet with an integrated visor that pivots on two moving channels instead of a single pivot point so when it is pulled down it moves farther away from the face, allowing larger frame glasses to be worn. “The helmet has 12 points of adjustment so each firefighter can customize the fit and TrakLite™ Integrated Lighting at the front above the brim,” Ernst says.
Bullard also makes the UST series of structural fire helmets with a chemical-resistant fiberglass outer shell and a high-heat thermoplastic inner shell with a 12-point harness system along with the Bullard Sure-Lock™ ratchet headband so the helmet fits well with SCBA face pieces. Bullard also makes the FX series fire helmet in fiberglass and the PX, LT, and USRX series fire helmets in thermoplastic.
5 Bullard makes the RETRAK® series fire helmet with an integrated visor that pivots on two moving channels instead of a single pivot point. (Photo courtesy of Bullard.)
Angel Sanchez Jr., director of global operations at Phenix Technology Inc., says Phenix makes three styles of structural fire helmets: the TC-2 traditional leather helmet, the First Due Contemporary, and the TC-1 Composite. “The TC-2 has a top-grade leather shell, a high-temperature thermoplastic dome, and a closed-cell energy impact cap,” Sanchez notes. “It has a suspension liner that includes a custom comfort pad adjustable from 6½ inches to 7¾ inches, black Nomex and fire retardant cotton eight-inch detachable earflaps, and a Nomex webbing chinstrap.”
The First Due Contemporary has a low center of gravity and central balance, Sanchez says, “and is less likely to create neck and upper back fatigue during long incidents. It has a high temperature thermoplastic shell and a closed cell energy impact cap, along with our suspension liner, earflaps, and chinstrap.” Phenix’s TC-1 traditional composite helmet also has a high-temperature thermoplastic shell and a closed cell energy impact cap.
ALAN M. PETRILLO is a Tucson, Arizona-based journalist, the author of three novels and five nonfiction books, and 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.