It was a “woohoo” day for Setting Lake’s volunteer firefighters, thanks to a generous benefactor and a gift of great consequence. The benefactor, who wishes to remain anonymous, recently delivered two dozen sets of firefighter turnout gear to the firehall.
What is Turnout Gear?
When the alarm sounds, firefighters scramble into their turnout gear, the first line of defence in fighting structural and wildfires. As you might expect it’s critical that the gear is fire resistant. Firefighter are exposed to extremely high temperatures and the material must not catch fire or worse, melt while they’re on the job. Turnout gear must also be tough and durable, comfortable, and breathable to minimize fatigue and heat stress.
A firefighter’s uniform is iconic. We can easily picture it. The oversized coats and pants, boots, gloves and those odd-shape “duckbill” helmets. The average set of turnout gear weighs as much as 45 pounds. Tack on radios, lights, irons, and the weight easily doubles.
Turnout gear has a long and distinguished history. The design was created more than 100 years ago and hasn’t changed much since then. Pants and coats have three layers – an outer shell, a moisture barrier, and a thermal liner. The flame-resistant outer shell and the thermal liner provide protection and lower heat stress while the moisture barrier resists water and chemicals. Nomex, a flame-resistant material, can withstand temperatures as high as 1600 degrees Fahrenheit.
The firefighter helmet we know today was also designed in the 1800’s by a volunteer firefighter who was a leathersmith by trade. Henry Gratacap had gained a reputation for making the highest quality trans-oceanic leather luggage that withstood moisture and rotting. Those qualities made Gratacap leather ideal for fire helmets.
And while the helmets may look like they’re on backwards, they are designed to keeps water, embers and debris from falling on firefighters necks and backs.
The new turnout gear affords Setting Lake’s volunteer firefighters the protection they need to perform their jobs safely. This is equipment they would not otherwise have because the cost of new jackets, pants, boots, helmets, and gloves is many times the fire department’s annual budget. The cost of one jacket and a pair of pants alone is over $3000.
With smiles all round, volunteer firefighters Laurent Auger, Aimee Velois, Wes Jeske, Larry Palaniuk, Nels Thompson, Gerry Garrioch, Jeff Henry, and Stacy Kennedy were on hand to unpack.
It’s the end of an era – no more fighting fires in tee shirts, shorts, and sandals! Thanks to the extraordinary generosity of our anonymous donor, Setting Lake firefighters are now well-equipped and well-prepared to protect cottagers, their property, and the environment whenever a call comes in. This is especially important as we head into another wildfire season.