Photos Provided By The City Of Fargo
There’s an old adage: look good, feel good. Few things inspire confidence as much as a new pair of shoes or a jacket that fits just right. Quality clothing can make a major difference. The same can be said about the gear relied upon by the Fargo Fire Department during every call.
When one thinks of stylish, a fully-outfitted fire crew might not be the immediate idea coming to mind. But have you ever wondered what goes into a firefighter’s uniform? There’s much more to it than meets the eye.
The Fargo Fire Department’s firefighters are split into three shifts: an “A” shift, a “B” and a “C.” Each shift lasts for 24 hours before another one takes over. During a shift, firefighters must wear an approved shirt and navy pants. When out in public, they will typically wear a light blue button-up shirt, except for Battalion Chiefs, Assistant Chiefs, the Fire Marshal and the Chief, who all wear white shirts.
Each firefighter has specialized clothes and equipment to utilize for emergency situations. This equipment is known as turnout gear, or “bunker gear.” It includes heavy-duty leather boots, protective bunker pants, a hood to guard the ears and neck, gloves, a multi-layer jacket, a lightweight helmet and an air pack known as an SCBA.
Fargo’s on-shift firefighters manage to put all of this on and get in a truck within 90 seconds of an emergency call. Uber-fast response times and preparedness have helped the department maintain class-one Public Protection Classification from the ISO (Insurance Services Office). This is the best possible rating a fire department can receive, and can potentially help lower homeowners’ insurance rates.
In the last decade, calls for service have increased by more than 160 percent for the department. From head-to-toe, each piece of equipment is optimized to help the 120 full-time members of the Fargo Fire Department meet the demands of a growing community. For instance, the department issues leather boots with steel toes and shank plates to provide puncture protection for the bottom of our firefighters’ feet.
Bunker pants provide firefighters’ legs additional protection. They are made with heat-resistant materials and consist of two layers. The outer layer provides cut resistance and protection from other hazards as firefighters respond to traffic accidents and fire-related emergencies. The inner layer, or “thermal layer” which provides thermal protection as well as heat stress reduction. Bunker pants also feature large pockets which firefighters use to hold tools and other helpful items.
Jackets are made of the same material as bunker pants, protection as FFD crews respond to calls 365 days a year. The jacket also provides much-needed insulation during the frigid winter months.
The Department recently invested in new helmets, opting for lighter units, which sit more comfortably on firefighters’ heads. Lighter helmets are appreciated, as the rest of the turnout gear can weigh around 50 pounds. The helmets provide protection from falling debris and prevent unnecessary knocks to the head in tight spaces. The new helmets also have built-in visors, which can be deployed by pressing them. The visors provide eye protection from debris.
The air packs used by the fire department are also referred to as SCBAs or self-contained breathing apparatuses. These provide crews with clean air and are one of the most important pieces of equipment firefighters utilize in an emergency. These units protect the firefighter from the plethora of carcinogenic smokes emitted in home and commercial fires.
Each piece of equipment used by the department must meet National Fire Protection Association standards. These standards establish levels of protection from heat, pathogens and other hazards firefighters would come across. Each firefighter has two sets of gear: a frontline set, and a backup set. A set of turnout gear typically lasts six to seven years as frontline gear, and when new gear is purchased it becomes a backup set. Gear is thoroughly washed after every single fire. While the frontline gear is washed the backup gear is used. With all of the specialized equipment needed, a set of turnout gear costs around $3,000.
The City of Fargo invests in 12 to 24 new sets of gear annually to keep firefighters properly protected and ready to respond to calls for service. The Fargo Fire Department recognizes its employees must be equipped with modern, effective equipment to maintain a standard of excellence.
The Fargo Fire Department is also recognized by the Commission on Fire Accreditation International (CFAI) as an internationally-accredited agency. Continuing to properly equip the highly-trained, skilled firefighters of the Fargo Fire Department is important to City leaders in ensuring the City meets the needs of its citizens every day.
While a new pair of shoes or a jacket that fits just right might instill a confidence boost, the commitment to state-of-the-art gear for the Fargo Fire Department should afford residents with a boost of confidence in our ability to protect you when you need us.