Understanding Structural Fire Gear

By Ricochet Gear December 16, 2020
Becoming familiar with the "tools of the trade" is what experts in all fields of work must do. 

If you are a chef, you know your knives, and what each one is best used for. If you are a contractor, you know which of your tools is best applied for which particular task. In the fire service, we also have and implement a vast amount of tools of our trade of which we must become closely and deeply familiar. This includes everything from extrication tools, to water flow components, to our EMS supplies. But there is one tool in particular that we must know in and out and that we use every single day: our PPE.

Our structural firefighting ensemble, including our jackets, pants, and accessories, severely influence the outcome of some of the most extreme and life-threatening situations that we can imagine. The stakes can be life and death for not only those of us on the scene but also those that we are trying to help and save as well.

It's not every day that the clothing one wears to their occupation can alter the outcome of a scenario, but that is precisely what can happen with structural fire ensembles.

For that very reason, today, we wanted to take a few paragraphs to talk about three particular areas where Ricochet's lines of structural firefighting gear, mainly our Maximum Mobility (M2) Prime line, excel in. Those areas are the outer shell, moisture barrier, and thermal liners.

Outer Shells

Starting from the outside of the gear and going in, a firefighter's first line of defense on their body is their jacket's outer shell. This essential layer is responsible for about a quarter of their total thermal protection and shielding. It also plays a vital role in protecting them from physical injuries like burns, cuts, and other abrasions.

Sticking with the name of the line, Maximum Mobility means that we took all of the above into consideration while building our gear, and we pushed even more on the ergonomic factors. You will be hard-pressed to find other lines of structural firefighting turnout gear that allows for the range of motion and comfort level that you'll see in M2 Prime jackets and pants.

While all of these considerations are, of course, important to have in a structural fire jacket outer shell, the shell is also important because it protects both of the next two layers we will discuss: the moisture barrier and thermal liners. 

Moisture Barriers

Just as human skin protects the internal organs, muscles, and veins, the outer shell of turnout gear is responsible for safeguarding inner components, which brings us to our next layer: the moisture barrier. The moisture barrier is responsible for protecting the firefighter from chemicals, water, bloodborne pathogens, and other agents that may be present on an emergency scene.

The moisture barrier of our M2 Prime series is heat-welded, using specially designed equipment. This process ensures the barrier's integrity, allowing performance levels that exceed the specific and exacting requirements of the NFPA Standards. 

Although designed to provide superior protection, the moisture barrier is also a  fragile component of structural gear and can be very susceptible to damage. For that very reason, they should be inspected frequently, and tested for any signs of malfunction, according to NFPA guidelines.

Thermal Liners

The innermost layer of structural fire gear is what we refer to as the "thermal liner." This layer is essential for structural firefighting because it has the most significant impact on heat stress reduction and thermal protection for the firefighter. Alongside the moisture barrier, this layer is responsible for roughly the other 75% of the garment's total thermal protective performance.

Thermal liners are critical to our firefighter's safety and comfort and work by, in essence, trapping air pockets in or between layers of fabric. In return, this trapped air allows for the firefighter to absorb less moisture and remain drier, keeping protection thorough but still breathable. 

The clothing layers worn below your fire gear (t-shirt, underwear, etc.) can also impact total breathability and comfort, but with our expertly designed thermal liners, you can be confident that we’ve put together the best materials we can with our Maximum Mobility series.

The business of turnout gear manufacturing is one that often banks on "one size fits all" models and makes firefighters and stations trade in comfort or protection for each other. We're proud to say that Ricochet has proven to be the antithesis of this model for over 25 years! 

We believe that you can have custom-fit, structural firefighting coats, and pants that excel in safety standards AND allow for comfort and breathability simultaneously. All of this is possible with our Maximum Mobility Prime series.

Don't believe us? Click here to contact your local Ricochet Gear rep and talk about giving them a test ride today!