The Evolution of Firefighter Safety

By: Tom Hartel


Firefighter uniforms have changed drastically over time. The flammable street clothes and leather boots worn in the 1600’s offered little protection. Flash forward 100+ years to the introduction of the helmet, which was originally designed to deflect falling debris, prevent water from running down the firefighters’ backs and allow them to use the pointy crown to break windows. Yet another 100 years passed before the mask was created to protect firefighters from heat and smoke.

Rolling into the 1900s, the rubber raincoat and boots were adopted as well as the NFPA requirements that gloves and boots be flame-resistant and able to withstand temperatures of 500-degrees Fahrenheit. Firefighters could now breathe safely in smoke-filled areas by use of the air pack. In 1982, the Personal Alert Safety System (PASS) device was created to alert the crew of an emergency on a loudspeaker, announcing that a firefighter is in danger.

Equipment now worn in the 21st century weighs up to 75 pounds and includes trousers with overall strap, boots, a jacket, a thermal layer and a moisture barrier, a self-contained breathing apparatus (SCBA), work gloves, structural firefighting gloves, a flash hood and a helmet. The helmet sometimes will have a visor and goggles attached depending on the situation. In the event of a chemical fire, hazmat suits are available as well.

Valley Fire has Fire Protection Solutions

These 21st century uniforms do not come cheap; each set is extremely expensive, so fire departments often only have one set per firefighter. The protective gear, during the course of their day, can become wet and covered with potential contaminants, chemicals and toxic agents. Thoroughly washing the gear after every incident is critical to the health of our firefighters. Once washed, it takes 2-3 days for a uniform to fully dry.

Firefighters face many challenges in their day; wearing a dry uniform should not be one of them. That’s why we at Valley Fire Protection in St. Charles, IL constructed a uniform drying system for our local fire department. Our drying system cuts drying time in half by allowing the PVC piping to supply circulated air directly to the inside of the uniform. We’ve been lucky enough to see the drying system in action and we are so happy that we could pay it forward and help out our local heroes.

Valley Fire Protection offers fire protection solutions that stand the test of time!

Related Topics: Fire Protection
By: Tom Hartel
I acquired my expertise by directing day-to-day operations of the business for over 20 years. Continuous hard work helped me become a nationally recognized speaker and expert on fire protection, fire sprinklers, special hazards, and plumbing systems. In this blog, I share my knowledge that will hopefully help you make better decisions for your projects.


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