Wildland fires are perceived as an increasing risk in the UK, having been added to the National Risk Register of Civil Emergencies in 2012. High risk and difficult to manage, wildland fires create a set of very particular circumstances, meaning that firefighters need flexible kit that will help them do their job whilst tackling these incidents.
Nathan Bricknell, general manager at FlamePro explains the advantages of specialist wildland fire turnout kit and what other situations it can be used for.
Why do wildland fires need different kit?
By their nature, wildland fires tend to occur in remote areas, meaning firefighters may have to walk a long way from appliances, often carrying hoses and other equipment. Not only this, while the heat from the fire isn’t as ferocious as being in a burning building, it can still be intense. And as wildland fires are often a risk during summer heatwaves, firefighters have to contend with not only heat generated by the fire but also the ambient air temperature as well.
Additionally, wildland fires can often see more than one fire raging during an incident, creating increased levels of radiant heat, as well as multiple locations in need of response. Of all the types of incidents, wildland fires are the ones that tend to go on the longest.
With this combination of factors, it’s easy to understand why these types of incidents can increase the risk of on scene firefighters suffering from heat stress.
What PPE should be used in wildland firefighting?
Wearing just a t-shirt on a firefighters’ top half leaves the arms exposed to heat and cancer-causing particulates. Meanwhile walking through wildland conditions in structural leggings will likely damage them, and the weight and heat protection a structural suit provides means firefighters wearing something unnecessarily heavy.
Fire services should have dedicated, lightweight turnout kit for wildland fires to allow firefighters to cover the distances needed. This type of kit doesn’t necessarily need the heat protection that standard turnout kit requires, which provides scope to allow for a single-layer, more highly breathable garment.
Wildland leggings need to have a closure at the bottom to stop sparks, smoke and debris going up the legs and exposing firefighters to carbon and particulates on the skin.
It’s also important that, when operating over large areas and sometimes from multiple brigades, the kit ensures firefighters are swiftly identifiable, using colours such as red which will stand out against the landscape. Most structural kit is now gold, which acts as a camouflage against the moorland landscape. Reflective elements are also helpful as efforts to fight wildland fires can often continue overnight.
Finally, like all professional firefighting kit, garments designed for tackling wildland fires need to have a good range of pockets for storing radios and other essential equipment.
Can wildland fire PPE be multi-functional?
Garments designed for wildland fire response share many of the same qualities needed for rescue suits, meaning some wildland PPE ranges available on the market, including our range here at FlamePro, are intended to be multi-purpose. This multifunctional approach saves brigades from having to buy extra firefighting PPE.
For more information on the different types of firefighter PPE, visit www.flame-pro.com