W.Va. fire department receives body armor

Private donations and grants provided the $7,100 needed for the 13 vests

By Greg Jordan
Bluefield Daily Telegraph

PRINCETON, W.Va. — An unfortunate fact in today’s world is that firefighters could face more hazards than flames or collapsing structures, but donors have made it possible for local firefighters to have an extra layer of protection when they need it.

After some fittings and alterations, 13 ballistic vests were delivered this week to the Princeton Fire Department. While the department received them about two and a half weeks ago, the department officially took possession of them Monday, Capt. Sean Wyatt said.

The 13 vests will be used by the department’s on-duty, paid personnel, Wyatt stated. Police officers often wear ballistic vests, but the models used by firefighters are designed differently from those used by law enforcement.

“They’re designed for firemen and EMS workers, “ Wyatt said. “There are pockets for EMS equipment and a place to put your radio. These are specialty vests. Local cops wear theirs under their uniforms, but these go over the uniform.”

Firefighters usually do not wear ballistic vests when they are performing duties such as extinguishing a structure fire or responding after a motor vehicle crash, Wyatt said. The usual turnout gear firefighters wear makes them 20 to 35 pounds heavier, and the vests would add another 7 to 10 pounds of weight.

“We’ll wear them for code enforcement or medical calls where it seems something is amiss and feel you might need to wear it,” he said. The department plans to draft guidelines for wearing the new vests, but those had not been completed as of Thursday. Other models are available for fire departments and rescue squads.

“There are actually departments with them (vests) built into their fire gear,” Wyatt said. “Some day, maybe here, but I might not see it in my career.”

Private donations and grants provided the $7,100 needed for the 13 vests, he added.

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