Researchers are field testing two upgrades for wildland firefighters — new specifications for fire resistant clothing and fireline lunches. Both of these topics are near and dear to the hearts of firefighters. If the clothing does not fit, or binds, or is too hot, or tears, it can make a 16-hour shift seem like 160 hours. And if the lunches they carry to the fireline suck, they may not get the nutrition and energy they need to combat the fire.
The Department of Homeland Security has distributed for field testing 1,000 sets of next-generation fire-resistant clothing for wildland firefighters.
Personnel from the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (CAL FIRE), the U.S. Forest Service, and 11 local California fire departments that are fighting ongoing wildfires will test the new equipment. The Science and Technology (S&T) Directorate division of the DHS is conducting this wear trial in partnership with the U.S. Army Natick Soldier Research, Development & Engineering Center’s National Protection Center.
According to the DHS, the next generation of personal protective equipment will improve radiant thermal protection; reduce heat stress; improve form, fit, and function compared to existing garments; and meet National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) 1977 and 1975 standards.
The prototype garment system includes undergarments, socks, shirts, uniform pants, tactical pants, and over pants. The system has a shelf life of five years, allows for rapid donning in three minutes or less, is compatible with existing equipment, and accommodates the 5th to 95th percentile of male and female firefighters.
For the last couple of years a new specification for lunches that firefighters carry onto the fireline has been tested. Reports are that there will be different configurations for the lunches that
camp slugs dedicated individuals that work at the Incident Command Post are provided, versus the high-calorie meals given to firefighters.
Past studies of sack lunches found that they contained between 1,600 and 2,000 calories, while a Meal Ready to Eat (MRE) is loaded with 2,841 calories. The experimental fireline lunches used in 2011 had about 2,000 calories. We have heard that the new lunches are a little pricey, running between $20 and $24 each.
This year the new experimental fireline lunches have been spotted on at least two fires in California, the North Pass Fire on the Mendocino National Forest, and the Shockey Fire on CAL FIRE’s Monte Vista Unit in San Diego County. The photo below is an example of one of these lunches found on a fire a few weeks ago.
Thanks go out to Ken and Kelly