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Dirty gear: No longer a badge of honor

Where a dirty helmet was once a badge of honor, a source of pride for firefighters looking to prove their mettle, this symbol is now seen by many as a sign of weakness, even ignorance. With all that we know about the risks of fireground toxins, firefighters who continue to glamorize dirty gear have positioned themselves as the modern-day Marlboro Man – a face that once symbolized rugged cool, now a relic of a fading culture.

The problem extends to unsafe fireground behavior, too, but many members find themselves unsure how to embody the essence of a valiant public servant amid a growing focus on safety.

In this special coverage series, we redefine fire service pride, identify the factors that drive firefighters to choose unsafe actions, and consider how culture and behavior are two very different ways to approach the issue.

Think big and act small, time it right using “commitment devices,” and focus on positive reinforcement and social norms
Detailing simple steps fire departments can employ to best connect with members
I’m the first guy into the fray, but I’m also the first to scrub my helmet clean afterward, all so I will be around to raise my kids
Fire Chief Marc Bashoor details his perspective on the topic and outlines what one Florida department is doing to keep its members safe
Reflecting on the evolution of gear through my career, the impact of an early burn, and how one leader gave me a better option
Exploring why some firefighters still glamorize dirty gear and unsafe actions, despite knowing the risks
Redefining fire service pride and identifying the factors that drive firefighters to choose unsafe actions
Does dirty gear really show how capable a firefighter you really are?
Chief Goldfeder takes on the issue of “Dirty Helmet Syndrome” and how much firefighters should be concerned with cleaning their gear