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Bunker gear at brush fires

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  • Bunker gear at brush fires

    I belong to a small, all-volunteer department in the Southwest. To save money (which is always scarce), some of our leadership is arguing that for small-scale brush fires structural PPE/bunker gear is an appropriate substitute for expensive, specialized wildland PPE. I am arguing that since heat stress is a major safety threat at brush fires, structural bunker gear is not appropriate and that we need to bite the budget bullet and invest in wildland PPE. Any thoughts or advice?

  • #2
    Bunkers are over $1000 per set. Nomex pants and shirts can be had for under $250 per set. Throw in the fact that heat stress (as you mention) is a concern, plus maneuverability is more limited with bunkers, and I think there's a good case for getting the proper clothing. Have you checked with your state forestry department to see what is out there for grants/surplus equipment? If not, I would definitely go that route before an outright purchase.

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    • #3
      My department issues coveralls for use in place of bunker gear for brush fires. We are specifically told not to wear bunker gear.

      The only 'crossover' in terms of PPE is we wear our Cairns structural helmets. Personally I'm going to buy either a wildland helmet or a Cairns 360R so I can also use it during auto extrication. Something smaller/lighter either way.
      Two departments, twice the fun...

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      • #4
        I forgot to add that here in my area of New Hampshire, most commonly you will see guys on the line with a nomex shirt on and regular jeans. I, personally, am not sure of the reasoning behind that, but probably less than half have nomex pants. And, don't bother checking manufacturing dates....

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        • #5
          I have a set of Tecgen pants and coat for wildfires and I love them. We still throw our structure gear on the truck just in case we get pulled into a structure fire on a wildland call. The others firefighters on our dept wear their bunker pants/boots with a nomex wildland jacket - the old nomex jacket is heavier and not as comfortable as the Tecgen.

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          • #6
            1) I wouldn't buy your own wildland gear. it's a workman's comp nightmare.

            2) many departments use structural fire gear for brush fires, my own included.

            3) wildfire guys wear nomex shirts, helmets, jeans, and steel toed boots

            $1000 for bunker gear, $250 for wildland gear, sounds like a no brainer right? except that you can use bunker gear to save money and don't need to spend $250 on wildland gear. It's not ideal, but not everyone can afford to get brush gear for all their firefighters.
            If my basic HazMat training has taught me nothing else, it's that if you see a glowing green monkey running away from something, follow that monkey!

            FF/EMT/DBP

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            • #7
              Originally posted by drparasite View Post
              1) you can use bunker gear to save money and don't need to spend $250 on wildland gear.
              Yes, you can save money, but get back to that workmans comp nightmare you mentioned. What happens when you have people on the line in structural gear and overheating. A singular trip to the hospital for one person is more than enough money to pay for a whole lot of wildland gear. Not to mention the wear and tear on structural gear that you absolutely need to protect yourself in an IDLH environment.

              Yeah, if you can't afford wildland, then use structural. But wildland gear will provide so much more comfort and working time vs structural.

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              • #8
                Originally posted by dfelix22000us View Post
                What happens when you have people on the line in structural gear and overheating.
                what happens when you have people at a summer house fire overheating? Does that mean we shouldn't wear bunker gear? the same arguement could be made that we shouldn't wear bunker gear at MVAs with entrapment, but I don't see the chief getting everyone extrication jumpsuits.
                Originally posted by dfelix22000us View Post
                A singular trip to the hospital for one person is more than enough money to pay for a whole lot of wildland gear.
                not if workman's comp needs to cover it, than it comes out of their budget not mine
                Originally posted by dfelix22000us View Post
                Not to mention the wear and tear on structural gear that you absolutely need to protect yourself in an IDLH environment.
                if your structural gear is failing because you are using it on wildland and brush fires, than you have bigger issues.
                Originally posted by dfelix22000us View Post
                Yeah, if you can't afford wildland, then use structural. But wildland gear will provide so much more comfort and working time vs structural.
                It's not that they can't rather they would rather spend the money elsewhere. and I 100% agree that wildland gear is more comfortable for brush fires than structural gear.

                Until the NFPA bans the use of structural firefighter gear on brush fires, for the very valid reasons you state, I don't see it changes. Too many departments (primarily big city career departments, but plenty of volunteer departments as well) have been using bunker gear for the "all hazards" approach for years, and have no desire to change, nor do they have the extra funding to buy everyone additional PPE when their current stuff works for when they need it.

                If you are doing true wildland, or deep seated brush fires trekking 4 miles into the woods, to put out a fire, and doing it on a semi regular basis, sure, than the justification is there. but the truth is, most of us aren't doing that.
                If my basic HazMat training has taught me nothing else, it's that if you see a glowing green monkey running away from something, follow that monkey!

                FF/EMT/DBP

                Comment


                • #9
                  Just sharing a potential funding solution for wildland PPE. New York State takes advantage of the Volunteer Fire Assistance Grant (VFA) program grant money. You should check to see if your states participate. The grant is a 50/50 matching funds program and make funds (up to $1500) available to fire depts for the purchase of wildland firefighting equipment and PPE. Basically, you spend $3000 and the state reimburses you $1500. Our dept won an award a couple years ago and purchased 7 sets of wildland nomex PPE and 5 backpack pumps. It's not enough gear for all of our members, but its better than nothing.

                  Do we get a lot of wildland fires? No, and they are mostly grass and small brush fires and not raging forest fires. We also responded for an out-of-county mutual aid call for a larger forest fire to do mop up. Goes without saying that we love the wildland stuff compared to our structural gear for this type of stuff.

                  Here's our State info
                  http://www.dec.ny.gov/regulations/2364.html

                  I think if you got creative, you could find other grants or funding sources out there.

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    I think the OPs location is a major factor to consider. The Southwest is hot, often hilly and prone to large brush fires for a good part of the year.

                    Using structure gear for small outdoor fires in a mostly urban environment is one thing. Fairly limited in size / duration, with a good water supply so surround and drown works. It even works if you are in one of those areas where mobile attack from the vehicle is acceptable. Fighting an actual wildland fire with terrain in structure gear is just asking to kill firefighters.

                    It is far too hot to have people operating for hours at a time in the much heavier structure gear, and even quality structure boots are completely inadequate for hiking hills. Even if you don't kill them, their effectiveness is seriously reduced.


                    Cost is a legitimate consideration, and there is more than just just buying pants and a shirt. You need boots, station boots may be acceptable if provided, but that is not always the case. Also not all station boots are acceptable. Helmets are cheapish ($50), but depending on style a structure helmet may be acceptable.


                    A proper set of wildland gear including Nomex, boots, helmet, gloves and webgear is easily $500. Once you are there is is hard to justify not providing a shelter which is another $400. Shelters should be provided on an individual basis, but you can get away with treating them like SCBA, and issue one per seat.

                    $1000 a person for gear that gets used once a year is a hard sell. For gear that gets used a few times a month, for half the year it is a prudent investment.

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      like here and there said location plays a big part -lots of areas have very few growing season (summer time) wildfires. So while it may not be real comfortable -its usually not brutally hot. Also strategy/tactics of your department play a big role , riding the bumper/tailboard/walkway of a brush truck and spraying some water on a bunch of light fuels from the black is not the same as digging line or dragging a torch through the woods. In a perfect world you could buy light weight gear for everyone AND not skimp on other needed equipment, but be sure that spending the bucks on gear seldom used will not take away from buying equipment that will let you get the job done faster and thereby get out of that ppe.
                      ?

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        I'm also in an all-volunteer department in the Southwest, and if your department is like mine, the majority of your calls are going to be for wildland incidents. We have wildland jumpsuits (plus a few Nomex jackets) that we use alongside our bunker gear. In my department, the way it usually goes is that the first due personnel use their bunker gear on small brush fires in town or near residences, for the sake of convenience. Otherwise, we use our jumpsuits.
                        I would definitely recommend that you invest in wildland gear. You know that you're going to be dealing with fires that require tools to fill a specific role, a role that bunker gear is just not suited for. Plus, by using the cheaper wildland gear when it's appropriate, you save your more expensive bunker gear from wear and tear.

                        Comment

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