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  • Prox gear

    Why is it that if proximity fire gear (silvers) isn't authorized for structural firefighting, so many military fire departments use it for just that.

    The only structural bunkers I have is my older prox gear from my military days, and I use them when I work part-time with a volunteer department (can't moonlight with another paying job as a military officer). Granted, I don't use the lobster gloves much anymore, and the prox hood has been replaced with a Bullard. But my question still stands.

    Also, can anyone in the ARFF community confirm whether Ranger Firewalkers are no longer authorized, and must be replaced by the new silver-coated ARFF boots (which, by the way, are fairly heavier)?

    MD

  • #2
    one of the reason proximity gear does not meet structural standards is that striping that is required on structural gear. A lot of military bases now issue each person two sets, one structural and one ARFF.

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    • #3
      The short answer...well two short answers:
      1. Proximity Suits, aka "silvers" are made for just what the name implies, getting in close proximity to large (typically outside) bodies of fire, as in an aircraft crash/fire, where there is a great deal of radiant heat but not much ambient heat, since most of that is convecting straight up to the sky.
      2. Proximity suits do not meet the almighty NFPA's standard for Structural Firefighting Protective Ensemble.

      Having said that, I know a lot of our military firefighters make the one set do double duty - crash and structural. Guess that's what they call a compromise.

      My experience with silvers in structure fires has been that they performed poorly and did not provide the thermal protection needed. Actually, it was kind of like being a baked potato, wrapped in tin foil and cooked at 400 degrees. Very uncomfortable.
      That was almost 20 years ago and I don't know to what extent they've improved crash gear...maybe they're better now?

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      • #4
        NozzleHog,

        The new silvers (Globe) are lighter weight than the older ones we used in training. I know exactly what you mean regards the "baked potato" feeling; have felt that way more than once whilst fighting structural.

        Regards the NFPA and the new ARFF boots; the Rangers worked just fine as boots for structural and CFR. Seems to me however, that new NFPA standards come when new manufacturers start wanting to field their new equipment. Of course, I could be completly wrong; but that's just the perception.

        I sort of miss the older days: Riding tailboard on a P-12 pumper; realizing on P-2 crash trucks that the most important thing as a driver to learn (if you forget everything else) is to plan your stops well ahead of time; and other fun things.

        MD

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        • #5
          I have heard several reasons for not using proximity gear during structural firefighting.

          The first is that proximity gear does not breath as well as structural gear, so in prolonged exposured to high ambient heat, all the heat which enters the clothing, or is produced by the body, stays inside the grear.

          The second is that proximity gear is not designed for crawling. Proximity clothing is typically designed for ARFF or refinery work, and remaining upright and mobile is necessary, as well as to keep the clothing from contamination, and to keep flammable liquids from entering through pantlegs and sleeves. The areas commonly prone to wear on structural gear is not as reinforced, and the coating is abraded from the worn areas.

          Proximity clothing also does not have the flexibility of structural clothing. Even well used gear is still stiff and can effect mobility.

          Proximity gear is also more expensive, unless you are getting some of the newer materials in your gear. Again, when used during structural incidents, the gear gets worn out faster, thus increasing the replacement rate, compounding the expense.

          Something else I discovered from talking with people who have gone through training in flashover simulators. If you are next to someone with proximity gear, there is a chance that the radiant heat reflected from the proximity gear will be directed towards other personnel which do not have proximity gear. This exposes the other personnel to even higher levels of radiant heat.

          The last one I will mention is that the name "proximity" has led a number of people I have spoken with to believe that you can get closer to the fire. This results in the problem people attribute to hoods and increases in the protective clothing barrier. People go deeper ino the fire, and think they can spend more time there. The heat builds up slowly in the gear until they suddenly realize that they are overheated, or that the atmospheric conditions are leading to flashover. When fighting a fire outside, this danger of flashover is not present in a similar form, but you can't ignore these conditions when inside of a structure.
          Tom
          The Fire Service ... where there is a right way, a wrong way, the Chief's way, the Deputy's way, the Captain's way, the Lieutenant's way ....

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          • #6
            Hello everyone. I am realatively new to to the ARFF firefighting but have 8 1/2 years of structural firefighting. I would not even consider wearing my Silvers in structural Fire fighting except that is all they issue to us at the airport where I work. I have seen several Airport Fire Departments that wear structural gear and nothing else, and some that wear the silver bunkers and structural helmets. Although most of our firefighting will be from the outside there is still that outside chance that we get to the siutation before get gets out of control and will be required to make an entry into a aircraft.

            As for the comment about the heat radiating up into the air, well if thats the case then why have proximity suits at all. If the fire is that intense then you are to close. Fires that we are trained to fight do have a heavy Fire load because of the fuel that is carried, but if it is burning then you are going to have to have a lot of agent to apply to combat this and advace as you gain more and more control of the fire. From what I have learned and seen the majority of crash rescue fire fighting is done fro the cab of the truck using the combination of turrets or the snozzle. Therefore you are not even close to needing the prox suit.
            The only time that I have seen where the suits might be an advantage, if you want to call it that because the are more restrictive than structural gear, is if you are extinguishing a engine fire, wheel fire, or small fuel fires on the exterior of the aircraft.

            In my opinion this is just a way for the gear manufactures to make more money.

            These are my opinons and do not reflect the opinions of the company that I work for or the airport that I work for.

            Good post.

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            • #7

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              • #8
                As a military firefighter, we have both sets. If you are at the ARFF house, then you wear the silvers. If not, structural gear. Having been deployed overseas, you get what they give. I have used the ARFF gear in a structural environment and the only thing I noticed was they were stiffer than the regular structural gear. The ARFF gear we have is the same material and workmanship as the structural, but with the aluminum coating. The coating appears to be blended into the fabric. I have not had a problem with peeling. The ARFF gear is also part of a system so we can still fight fire in a chemical warfare environment (don't get me going on that). The only real difference I can see is that they're stiffer, and they don't have the reflective striping. The helmet is kind of wacky also. Our department just had an ORI and we did get spanked becasue we were responding to aircraft incidents with structural gear. I think the NFPA says if your're primary response is structural, wear bunkers, if it's aircraft, wear silvers.

                [ 07-29-2001: Message edited by: Fedfire ]

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                • #9
                  i am also a military firefighter and we are issued both sets of gear, i am almost always on an engine or rescue so i always wear structural gear, it`s alot more comfortable and i just don`t like proxy gear. we do have guys who wear proxy for everything though. mainly, i think, because they don`t know any different.

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