Every day, firefighters respond to emergency calls to put out fires, save people from dangerous situations and keep other members of their team safe.
If you’ve ever wondered what firefighters carry when they respond to calls and how much it all weighs, learn about standard fire department gear and uniforms below.
Turnout gear, or Personal Protection Equipment
Although firefighters carry different equipment depending on the structure they are entering and what job they have been assigned, there are several pieces of fire-resistant gear that every firefighter must wear.
Turnout gear comprises the protective equipment that most people think of when they picture a firefighter. The turnout coat, pants, gloves, boots and helmet each have three important layers, along with a self-contained breathing apparatus and mask.
The first layer of turnout gear is the outer shell. This tough material protects the firefighter from abrasion. When entering a burning building, firefighters often encounter wire and sharp pieces of metal. Each of the pieces of turnout gear is created to withstand tearing or puncturing. They also have reflective strips to make a firefighter easier to spot in a low-light situation.
The second layer is material that protects against extreme heat. The turnout gear has to be rated to withstand temperatures from 500 to 600 degrees. The SCBA’s mask, which protects firefighters’ faces, is rated to 500 degrees.
For protection against superheated steam, the third layer of turnout gear is the moisture barrier. When firefighters spray water on a fire, steam plumes and presents a significant burn risk. This final layer, next to a firefighter’s skin, prevents this heated vapor from penetrating the gear.
As a result of the tough material and protective layers, turnout gear collectively weighs 40 to 50 pounds, said Jay Davis, training coordinator and an instructor for the Salt Lake Fire Department.
Gear for specific structures or problems
In a team of firefighters, each person will be assigned a job. If a firefighter is assigned to get into a closed room to rescue a trapped victim, he or she could carry a flathead ax, halligan tool, or sledgehammer to break through a blocked door. These tools can weigh between 8 and 10 pounds each, says Davis, potentially increasing the total load of a firefighter to 60 or 70 pounds.
If firefighters are going up a high-rise building, they need to carry hoses on their backs. These hoses can weigh upward of 30 pounds and need to be hauled up staircases to the fire.
Besides the heavy-duty protective equipment, other tools aid firefighters in communicating and extricating themselves if they get caught.
“Everyone carries a flashlight, hand tool for cutting (like heavy-duty wire cutters or a pocket knife), and a radio,” Davis said.
Although these smaller items add between 2 and 5 pounds, their usefulness and potential to save lives makes them well worth the pocket space.
Additionally, there’s a thermal imaging camera on every fire truck. The captain of the squad will carry and use this device to see where the hottest parts of the building are and whether there are people trapped inside.
Gear maintenanceComment on this story
All gear is maintained to high standards, so firefighters will always have the protection they need.
“The turnout gear must be washed twice a year and always patched properly if it gets torn or abraded,” says Davis, who also helps coordinate the Personal Protective Equipment Program (PPE Program) around the Salt Lake Valley.
You can learn more about Utah firefighting gear and equipment by visiting your city’s fire station website.
Read more from the Utah League of Cities and Towns on DeseretNews.com or visit its website at ulct.org.