There are two broad categories of protective equipment. The first includes items that protect people involved in extinguishing fires. The second category comprises equipment that safeguards structural elements in forests, such as tension towers and remote buildings.
Personal protective equipment (PPE) is essential for people who work in fire extinguishing, especially in extreme conditions. Garments like boots, helmets and gloves are designed to protect firefighters and other first responders from the heat, flames, smoke and other hazards associated with fires. Respiratory PPE protects firefighters from inhaling smoke and chemical substances generated by fire.
Clothing for firefighters
Firefighters' clothing is highly resistant to heat transfer and mechanical aggression. It often consists of multi-layered composite materials. Smart firefighter clothing integrates temperature or body status monitoring sensors, including data transfer and other monitoring technology, which needs to be fire-resistant and function in extreme temperatures.
Fabrics for firefighters' clothes
Composite materials are continuously being developed and improved. The mostly multi-layered non-flammable fabrics need to have the requisite protection properties at the same time as being low-weight and comfortable. They can be incorporated into outer or inner layers of clothing, as well as in helmets and gloves.
Firefighters' uniforms are subject to many demands, which are often hard to reconcile. They must not only be light, strong and heat resistant from a materials perspective, but also allow free movement during dangerous activities. So they may have to be hard and protective in some places, but more flexible in others. The uniforms must be easy to put on and allow carriable equipment to be attached, integrated or stored.
Gloves need to be fire resistant, flexible, protective and have excellent grip. They may also incorporate sensors and/or some means of cooling.
Helmets need to be strong and light. However, modern helmets are also becoming more innovative and may feature equipment like lights, sensors, tracking and positioning devices, as well as eye-protection.
Respiratory protection against fire
Respiratory protection includes devices like facial masks, glasses and visors that protect the respiratory system, as well as the eyes, from smoke, heat and other fire hazards.
Respiratory protection for firefighters fighting forest fires
These are devices and equipment specifically designed for fighting forest fires or where use in fighting forest fires is explicitly mentioned. Nevertheless, any respiratory protective equipment designed for or used by firefighters generally can also be used in a forest fire setting. The two concepts below cover such equipment.
Respiratory apparatuses for firefighters
These devices use either compressed oxygen or air, or filters, or a combination of these. They contain chemicals to produce oxygen so as to provide breathable air to firefighters. Respiratory apparatuses also feature specific components like air-cooling devices, contamination or expiration warning devices, valves or breathing or demand regulators.
Masks, respiratory filters and cartridges for firefighters
Full-face or half-masks are used by firefighters, with or without ventilation pumps as well as any of their specific component parts. Cartridges and respiratory filters can also be used in combination with masks or other respiratory protection equipment.
Protection of structural elements
Examples include fire-resistant tents, blankets or tarps that can be quickly thrown over a structure (or an individual) to protect them from heat, flames and radiant heat. They also include sprinkler installations designed to provide buildings and similar structures with external protection from forest fires.