MIDDLETOWN, Ohio -- When it comes to fighting fires, the training and the tools matter. That’s why replacing some older gear is important to Lt. Jamison Verdin of Middletown’s fire department.
“A lot of fire fatality reports that you read -- sometimes bad gear led to that so we want to make sure that everybody’s in gear that protects them the best it can,” Verdin said.
According to the National Fire Protection Association, a fire department’s gear must be replaced every ten years. That means gear manufactured in 2003 expired in 2013. But ten years is a long time for a 73-person department that responds to 12,000 fire calls annually. Verdin said the gear won’t last that long.
“Our gear won’t hold up to ten years, so a lot of the guys had seven or eight years use of the gear,” he said. “Those were the ones identified who needed gear to be replaced.”
The city of Middletown approved the Middletown Division of Fire’s request for 13 full sets of turnout gear -- the pants and coats firefighters wear to protect themselves. Some damaged or worn out gloves, helmets and boots will be replaced as well.
Recognize the firefighter on the right? 😄😅 That took a couple of minutes to put on...
Today I worked on a story with @MFDOhio regarding new gear they're getting for 13 firefighters. Some had been using gear for less than the 10-year NFPA-use standards. Story at 4, 5! @WCPO pic.twitter.com/zQsQnaqNGJ
— Paola Suro WCPO (@PaolaSNews) October 16, 2018
One big factor in determining whether a turnout coat needs to be retired is the velcro.
“The velcro industry will tell you that velcro wasn’t made for the high temperatures that you’re being exposed to in a fire,” Verdin said. “So velcro tends to fall apart on it.”
Verdin said a changing firefighter mentality continues to impact the safety of equipment and gear as well. Verdin said he’s aware of three cancer deaths related to fire service in his career.
“For years the big thing was being a fireman and the dirtier your gear was, it was like a badge of honor type thing,” he said. “Guys didn’t really take care of their gear like they do now.”
In addition to replacing older equipment, Verdin said he’s working to get a second washer at the station for cleaning gear.
“I think there’s a lot of preventative stuff we can do here that the fire service is learning,” Verdin said. “We’re trying to promote some of it now that the laws are passed because they’re going to come back now to watch us and make sure that we’re cleaning our gear -- cleaning the inside of our vehicles out.”
Verdin said the gear that expired in 2013 is used strictly for physical agility testing. The city sends other gear to the Dominican Republic.
One set of turnout gear, including the bunker pants and jacket, costs about $2,100.