ROCKLIN — The city’s 30 firefighters are feeling less heat than usual this fire season, literally.
The entire department has been outfitted with new, state of the art, wildland firefighting protective clothing that keeps their body temperatures much cooler than in the past. The change comes after several years of research.
Until recently, there just wasn’t much thought given to how firefighters could disperse, or at least reduce, their own body heat while on the fire line, which also created an abundance of hazardous situations.
“Firefighters were sustaining heat-related injuries, such as heat stroke and heat exhaustion,” explained Paul Grenier the city’s Fire Engineer.
A joint study conducted by the Department of Homeland Security, the U.S. Army, and Cal-Fire found that while the old protective gear firefighters had been using helped for burn protection, there was however a dramatic increase in heat related injuries.
“If the body can’t dissipate heat it’s just not going to work as efficiently,” said Grenier. “The brain starts to, just like hypothermia you start to have judgement issues and your muscles just don’t perform as they are used to. So it creates a hazardous environment.”
The new protective clothing is much lighter in stature. Gone is the double-layer for burn protection, allowing whoever is wearing it to shed the heat much better.
“It is much more comfortable. It has a better cut to it,” Grenier explained. “The fabric just feels like it is breathing better, and we are able to wear just a single layer of undergarments underneath it rather than with the old gear we had to wear it over our pants and uniform shirt.”
The city of Rocklin paid $15,000 to outfit their 30 firefighters, and the change comes at the end of the standard five year replacement window for protective clothing.
“So, it was coming time for us to change anyway and this just comes on the heels of that study, so we felt it was a good time to go to the new equipment,” said Grenier.
In the coming months, when the temperatures are climbing, the grass is dryer, and the fires are burning as hot as ever, the firefighters in Rocklin at least will be catching a break.