La. firefighters outfitted with improved gear


By Mary Sparacello
The Times-Picayune

KENNER, La. — Kenner's firefighters recently received new bunker gear to replace aging uniforms.

"You could see they had a fair amount of wear and tear on them," Chief John Hellmers said of the old gear.

The City Council last month bought 95 sets of the new gear for $155,827. That will outfit every firefighter with extra for new hires or if some uniforms are being cleaned, Hellmers said.

"It's long overdue on our gear," said Mickey Giarrusso, president of the Kenner Firefighters Local 1427. "Overall, it's nice."

Flame-resistant, waterproof leather boots fit better and will last longer than the former rubber boots, Hellmers said. "Sometimes you don't realize you have a crack in them until you have a situation that lets you know."

Hellmers, who fought fires for three decades in New Orleans before becoming Kenner's chief in February 2007, remembered discovering a small slit in his rubber boot while fighting a New Orleans house fire. A cracked generator cord mildly shocked Hellmers with every step. "I had to get out of the house," he said.

Kenner's new hoods protect the ears and the back of the neck from burns. And the new helmets sport a more pronounced lip in the back to shield firefighters from embers or scalding water.

Hellmers recalled watching water arc from a hose onto the roof of a burning New Orleans building while his short-brimmed helmet allowed water to scald his back. "This should help prevent that type of situation from happening," he said.

Lighter, waterproof and fire-retardant fabric pants and coats feature a safety loop. Other firefighters can grab the rescue-drag device, a recent development in uniform technology, to pull a fallen colleague to safety.

"The advancements are just tremendous," Hellmers said.

Copyright 2008 The Times-Picayune Publishing Company

Copyright © 2013 LexisNexis, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
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