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Tech | August 2014

Protective clothing for fire fighters

The main components in most firefighter clothing are Kevlar and Nomex, two fabrics created by chemical giant DuPont in the 1960s, affirm Rachna Sharma and Manisha Gahlot.

Historically, fire fighters did not have the same level of protective clothing used today. Because of this most fires were fought from the outside of burning buildings, and structures were rarely entered. Early in the history of fire fighting, a fire fighter´s outer clothing was more for warmth and dryness than for protection from fire. In the early 19th century, the early use of long trench coats, made of leather or canvas and later made of rubber, was the forerunner of modern turnout jackets. Early coats had felt or wool liners to provide warmth in the winter. These liners later developed in basic thermal protection liners found in today´s modern coats. Earlier rubber coats were much longer than today´s modern turnout jackets, reaching down to a fire fighter´s mid thigh and were worn with long rubber boots called ´three-quarter boots´ which came above the fire fighter´s knees. This interface of boot and coat left a large gap of protection against fire. This system has since been replaced by the modern combination of a jacket, pants with suspenders, and shorter rubber or leather boots, although some departments still wear the traditional old style of gear.

The National Fire fighters Protection Association has set a fundamental requirement that protective clothing for fire fighters has a minimum TPP value of 35, which means the clothes, can protect a person engulfed in a fire for 17.5 seconds.

Components of fire fighter clothing
According to NFPA 1971 and similar standards in other countries, all turnout clothing must have three components: outer shell, a moisture barrier, and a thermal barrier. In between these layers are pockets of air referred to as ´dead zones´.

These layers of air along with the three protective layers help to further insulate the wearer from the extreme environments of fires.

Usually turnout pants are outfitted with reinforced knees and leather cuffs. The materials used for the three layers in turnout trousers and coats may vary but will very often include a Nomex/Kevlar combination of material

As an example, the materials used by the Los Angeles City Fire Department, as found in their 2005 recruit handout are as follows:

  • Outer shell: Nomex/Kevlar blend in a ´rip stop weave´, with water repellent finish.
  • Thermal insulated layer: Quilt material.
  • Moisture barrier: Breathe-Tex material combined with Nomex/Kevlar blend laminated cloth. 

  • Thermal and moisture barriers are sewn together for removal for cleaning, repair and replacement from outer shell.

    The main components in most firefighter clothing are kevlar and nomex, two fabrics created by chemical giant DuPont in the 1960s. Many protective clothing companies use a mix of the two fabrics, whereas other focuses more on the flame-resistant Nomex. Nomex is the fabric that gives the protective gear its resistance to heat and flame while kevlar adds flexibility, comfort and allows the fabric to breathe.

    Nomex


  • Nomex, DuPont copyrighted creation, as a flame-resistant, melt-proof fibre.
  • Many protective clothing companies use a mix of the two fabrics, whereas other focuses more on the flame-resistant Nomex.
  • Firefighter gear is made of Nomex material because it is heat and flame resistant.
  • It is used to dress firefighters and other professionals who work with inflammable chemicals.
  • Nomex material serves a special purpose, Low temperatures and low alkalinity are necessary when washing Nomex fabric.
  • Nomex will not burn in air like a cotton fabric and will not melt and drip likes a polyester fabric.
  • When exposed to a heat source the Nomex fabric will actua
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