There is a range of wildland firefighter products that are critical to the safety of the wildland firefighter and to the success of the operation, including wildland line packs, wildland apparatus and wildland face protection.
Here are the main things to consider when buying these wildland fire products.
Wildland line packs
There are many factors to consider before purchasing a proper line pack. Whether you are buying a pack for yourself or trying to decide which one is best for your department, there are some key things you should think over before making your final decision.
1. Remember that personal preference is a top priority during this entire process of narrowing the scope in deciding which line pack is right for you. To help make a sound and reasonable decision, you must first ask yourself some pertinent questions. The type of wildland fire crew you are on is a determining factor that will help steer you in the right direction for pack purchasing. Think about your crew's main operations. Do you generally use different equipment for different field operations and tasks? Is your field of scope always changing or does your primary job stay fairly consistent?
2. Crews that execute much versatility with their duties and many engine crew personnel tend to prefer a detachable day pack. These have all the benefits of a non-detachable pack, with the added ability of being able to break away the main pack from the harness system. With the pack off but the harness still in use, the wildland firefighter is able to continue fighting fire with the required fire shelter and it still allows for the hydration pouches to be right at the firefighter's fingertips.
3. Engine crews have the convenience of storing the main pack portion in their engine while using the harness system to fight fires safely and aggressively without the added weight of the gear that the truck can carry for them.
4. Multiuse crews such as urban interface and USAR teams benefit from the detachable-style packs as well. With their ever-changing duties, one or two zips will free them from unnecessary gear. Conversely, one or two zips can add on that pack with all the extras they might need for extended attack on fires or longer search and rescue missions.
5. The non-detachable style of day pack tends to be less expensive due to the lower complexity in the manufacturing process — but product is not affected. Pricing is always an important part of decision making and you must evaluate honestly what is fair and just in your budget for the cost of your pack. There are many firefighting equipment costs, but the cost of your fire pack is not one to take lightly.
6. Keep in mind that personal preference is a key point and that it is up to each individual and crew supervisor to determine what type of pack will best be suited for their needs and desires. Many multi-personnel crews generally prefer conformity as far as brand and color of gear goes. However, there is a growing trend even with these types of crews to ascertain that level of conformity while having a diverse choice of fire packs available for their crew members.
Considering your job duties — do you want/need a detachable or non-detachable pack? — and appreciating what you can afford to spend on a line pack are both good leads for the beginning of your line gear search.
The modern day wildland engine must be engineered much differently than a city pumper for safety and durability reasons. While the differences are difficult to spot on the outside, it's far more obvious when you take a look at the underside of the apparatus. There are several factors to take into consideration when you spec out your vehicle for both safety and endurance.
1. The most important vehicle component for a true wildland apparatus is the body sub-frame, which must allow the body to flex when firefighting on rough and uneven forestry terrain. If the body mount does not allow for this flex, the body structure itself will absorb the energy and will lead to premature failure of body components.
One testing procedure commonly used to check the sub-frame is the opposing axle lift test. This involves raising opposing tires at least 12" off the ground and opening each compartment door. They should open without any binding of them. While in this position, look for driveline interferences, start the pump and check all PTO shafts.
Look for fan shroud obstructions make sure the pump house structure is not impeding on any plumbing components. If your body is not mounted with a wildland-type sub-frame, it will not last long in the forestry environment.
2. Keeping windblown embers from entering into the engine and cab is paramount for the protection of firefighters and their ability to pump water.
Several stainless steel screens are required: Two air intake and fresh air intake screens will help prevent live embers from entering the engine and cab.
Wrapping air and fuel lines below the frame rail will protect these lines from ember melt-through and prevent a rupture of critical fuel and air lines caused from embers resting on these lines.
3. The wildland apparatus must have center of gravity engineered into the body build when considering components, loose equipment and crew placement.
The industry standard method for checking this is the tilt-table testing method. The minimum criteria should be 30 degrees when fully loaded with equipment and crew.
Wildland face protection
When fighting wildfires, making sure you have proper facial protection — which includes mouth, nose, eyes and skin coverage — is a matter of life and death.
Firefighters can be saved from respiratory damage and even failure if they use proper facial protection. PPE for the face of a wildland firefighter ranges from simple handkerchief bandanas to more advanced CarbonX or Nomex face protectors known as shrouds. The shrouds may be worn alone or can be worn with specialized particle mask filters inserted in them for extra protection. CarbonX and Nomex are both brand names of heat and flame resistant fibers that are used to create the protective fabrics. What you use depends on your needs, your department/agency's needs and what your department/agency supplies you.
Maintaining the health of your eyes while fighting forest fires all day long in the hot sun will help you to focus longer on your task at hand. Safety goggles help keep smoke, ash, helicopter wash, radiant heat and UVB/UVA sunlight out of eyes.
Ultraviolet radiation — the same harmful rays that cause skin damage — can also cause damage to your eyes. Sunlight is often divided into UVA and UVB categories but your sunglasses, safety glasses and goggles should block both forms for ultimate protection.
To lessen eye strain in discordant lighting conditions, try different colors of lenses. Brown or grey lenses block out colors of light to varying degrees. Orange and yellow colored lenses have a unique function of making one's vision crisper and clearer by blocking blue light which is the cause of smoke haze, thus making smoky and twilight fires easier to navigate through.
Your fire department or agency might require you wear goggles and safety glasses to meet a specific ANSI-rating. These ratings are highly accessible while searching for eye protection. The NFPA also certifies goggles.
Any other suggestions? Anything we missed in the list above? Leave a comment below or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org with your feedback.
Doug Feldman, of Rosenbauer West Coast sales/distribution, wrote the wildland apparatus portion of this article. The Rosenbauer Group is the world's second-largest manufacturer of firefighting vehicles. It has a wide range of municipal firefighting vehicles and aerials built to both European and U.S. standards (NFPA) as well as an extensive series of aircraft rescue and firefighting vehicles, industrial firefighting vehicles, advanced firefighting components and fire and safety equipment. For more details, go to Rosenbauer.com.
Gale Dashner, of the The Supply Cache, Inc., wrote the line pack and face protection portion of this article. Gale spent four years as a wildland firefighter at the Department of Natural Resources in Minnesota and three years on a helitack crew in Colorado before joining The Supply Cache, Inc. The company was formed in 1990 in Colorado by two wildland firefighters, Jim and Diane Felix, and supplies a range of wildland gear. For more details, go to Firecache.com.