We’ve been noticing more and more on every water rescue that firefighters are still wearing their fire protection gear. Structural firefighting gear is exactly what it is, it’s made for structural firefighting. Yes, we use it for vehicle rescues, confined space and other rescues, but let’s talk about using it for water-related rescue.
First lets address the gear. Helmet, coat, pants, boots (leather or rubber) and gloves. What is the average weight of a full set of bunker gear? Of course it’s getting lighter and lighter every year with a new technology, but what truly happens to that gear when it gets wet? How much water does a full set of bunker gear absorb and how much does it weigh when that water is fully absorbed into your gear?
Our little non-scientific test tells us that a full set of gear will absorb approximately 7 gallons of water. A gallon of water weighs 8.34 pounds, times that with 7 gallons and that comes to 58.38 pounds.
How many of you have tried to swim with your full bunker gear on, with your boots, pants, coat and helmet? Its virtually impossible.
Again we are seeing more and more of our fellow brothers trying to do water rescues in full fire gear. Bunker Gear is not for water rescue events!
For a water rescue event we recommend that you take off your bunker gear and use a class 3 (15.5 lbs buoyancy/Flotation) or class 5 (25 lbs Buoyancy/Flotation) life jacket (PFD), water rescue helmet, and your work clothes.
If you’re doing a full water rescue operation; water rescue helmet, water rescue related gloves, wet suit or dry suit, class 3 to class 5 PFD with a load release, water rescue related footwear like a neoprene boot or water rescue related boot. This water rescue related gear should be worn, anytime you’re within 10 feet of the water’s edge.