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An overall improvement for Quesnel Fire Department

Personal safety shifts into higher gear for Quesnel Fire Department

Firefighters in Quesnel needed something more suitable for personal safety.

In addition to a whole newly renovated headquarters, the personnel at the Quesnel Fire Department (QFD) also had their personal environment renovated. A new set of overalls was obtained, which will make each member more appropriately dressed for certain situations.

It has nothing to do with fashion. These overalls are built for particular jobs that “turnout gear” (the thick coats and pants worn at house fires) are inappropriate for.

“We upgraded all our coveralls,” said fire chief Ron Richert. “We have three uses for those: wildland firefighting; for medical calls, which helps distinguish who we are; and we also use them for our high-angle rope rescue situations.”

The 45 new sets represent a suit for each volunteer and paid staff, plus some spares for new recruits or replace any damaged ones. Each set costs about $500 because they are not the same material as the everyday shop coveralls the regular trades professional or home handyworker wears. They are built out of Nomex material - a flame resistant textile used by auto racers, workers in flame-prone factories, even the military.

Part of the importance of this garb upgrade was insignia and other visual elements to reinforce their firefighters’ presence.

“If you saw me wearing these at an incident, could you tell who I am?,” Richert said, indicating the old nondescript coveralls of the past. There was no visual difference between the firefighters’ garb and that of a towtruck driver, sanitation worker, or virtually any industrial personnel who might also be at the scene of an emergency. That can be dangerously confusing to the victim of a disorienting incident or other firefighters trying to keep track of colleagues’ positioning.

“There was nothing on there that designated who we are. Now we are clearly with Quesnel Fire Department,” he said.

But you can’t just get a logo ironed onto a firefighter uniform. The materials involved are themselves safety items for the wearer, right down to the lettering and reflective strips. If they aren’t correctly manufactured, they become safety hazards themselves.

Their overalls also needed to have special cuffs to better prevent embers or foreign objects from injuring the firefighters’ ankles and wrists.

“We get our money’s worth from them,” Richert said, listing all the special details firefighters need from their overalls.

At the same time, the QFD also invested in lightweight helmets (the same ones also worn by rock climbers and cavers, but also confined-space and high-angle work applications) to wear in many of the same situations requiring overalls. Heads must still be protected, but they are not appropriate situations for the full-scale firefighter helmets worn during the burning of structures.

Even the traditional firefighter helmets have been phased out recently by the QFD, in accordance with many fire departments in the act of modernizing. Gone are the headgear with the telltale extension out the back. Those fins were there largely to keep embers and other dangerous matter from going down a firefighter’s neck, but there are fabric advancements that do that, now, eliminating the need for such a physical attachment.

“We did a bit of a study on these, tried a few of them for a short time, and found that they were better,” said Richert. “They are a lighter weight. When you go to something like a motor vehicle incident or anything where you have to wear your turnout gear, not our coveralls, we’ll be in this style of helmet. The other ones were more in the way, they would fall off, but these ones are great: comfortable, light.”

Fire departments are constantly on the lookout for the latest innovations in garb technology, due to the flames, oils, chemicals, particulate, and other scene substances they encounter.

READ MORE: Breaking down the doors of firefighting in Quesnel

READ MORE: New firetruck approved for Quesnel Fire Department

Frank Peebles

About the Author: Frank Peebles

I started my career with Black Press Media fresh out of BCIT in 1994, as part of the startup of the Prince George Free Press, then editor of the Lakes District News.
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