How Firefighting Equipment and Gear Has Evolved for Safety and Performance

Whether you’ve been a firefighter for decades, or you’re an aspiring firefighter, you should be grateful for the developments in fire equipment. Without this equipment, firefighters wouldn’t be able to safely do their jobs. We say safely because we know that firefighters are so dedicated to their duty, that even without some of this equipment, they’d risk their lives to save someone in need. Modern equipment helps reduce risks to the job of firefighting.

Turnout Clothes

As with any other innovation, manufacturers improved the design over time, leading to the turnout gear we know today. The original firefighter uniform wasn’t designed to protect them from fires, but merely for keeping firefighters dry and warm. The reason for this is because, back in the day, firefighters wouldn’t enter a burning building. Firefighters were able to enter buildings because of innovations in personal protective equipment. Today, the firefighter uniform consists of several layers to still keep the firefighter dry, but also to protect from heat, lacerations, and more.

Fire Boots

Originally, firefighters were lucky to have anything more than leather boots for foot protection. As you might expect, this caused several issues and injuries, since firefighters may step on sharp and uneven objects or traverse various hazards, such as fire, chemicals and water. Today, firefighter boots come with steel toes and they’re made with industrial-grade leather or rubber that are knee height. These boots protect firefighters from items that might fall on their feet and the hazardous conditions they must walk through.

Helmet and Gloves

Everybody knows the iconic firefighter helmet. However, the helmet hasn’t looked the way it does today. The first known helmet was made in 1731 with leather, but many firefighters didn’t wear helmets when extinguishing fires until the 1800s. Today, fire helmets are worn during all responses because they protect firefighters from debris falling on their head, in addition to providing heat protection.

Like the original fire helmet, gloves were not alway available. Firefighters had to bring their own basic leather gloves, which result in a greater number of hand injuries in prior years. Today, every firefighter wears hand protection to keep their hands safe while using equipment, and while being exposed to heat, laceration risks, and more.

Fire Trucks

We can’t forget about how firefighters respond to the scene — with the apparatus that is essential at the fire scene. The fire engines, fire ladder trucks, tower ladder trucks and rescue squads have been developed with many performance and safety features. Some apparatus is even custom-designed for specific needs of city fire departments to efficiently respond and operate for specific incidents. Firefighters originally responded in horse-drawn wagons. Eventually about 1841, fire departments used steam pumper fire engines. Fire apparatus became fully motorized in 1910. Apparatus with extendable ladders were developed in the late 19th century.

Today’s fire engines, fire ladder trucks, tower ladder trucks and quints are extremely durable, including rust-resistant materials, and a number of safety features, including ergonomic designs, protruding structures with flexible supports, high-performance lighting, cameras that allow the driver to see 360 degrees around the apparatus, efficient compartments, and more. Ladder trucks have safer ladders, and tower ladder trucks have improved aerial ladders with safety supports and controls, water deliver systems, and portable air.

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