Firefighters wear a lot of specialized equipment to keep themselves protected when they go out in the field. Of that equipment, one of the most recognizable pieces is the helmet. While many industries wear helmets, the firefighter helmet style is iconic. But these helmets didn’t always look the way they do now. Check out this history of firefighter helmet design to learn some fun facts.
Before any firefighter helmets existed, people tried to put out fires without additional equipment or gear. Not using helmets or safety gear was incredibly risky, but this practice existed before any actual firefighting group came to be.
Later, around 1821, Henry T. Gratacap developed one of the first traditional firefighter helmets. It was leather with a front piece, a long rear brim, and a crest adorning the top to indicate it was a firefighter helmet.
Gratacap’s designed the helmet with fire safety in mind. The segmented “comb” design boosted the helmet’s durability and strength. The leather was for strength, but the elongation of the front piece and brim helped to deflect debris and water. The crest also helped to break windows in emergencies.
Other Countries and Metal
While US firefighters used these leather helmets for many years, other counties—such as France and Great Britain—began experimenting with other materials like metal. France worked on brass helmets for their firefighters, and some British fire brigades later began copying this design.
Then, as more homes got electricity, different departments began creating helmets from a composite of cork and rubber. Later, they would introduce steel helmets during World War II to help protect firefighters during air raids. Around this time, firefighters in Buffalo, New York, began using aluminum helmets.
Modern firefighter helmets are typically thermoplastic or fiberglass. They can protect the wearer from extreme heat conditions and other debris. In addition to being durable, these modern wildland firefighting helmets typically have A Nomex chin strap and wildland firefighters will wear goggles for eye protection. Modern helmets also offer adjustability, so firefighters can get them to fit their heads while still being comfortable and breathable.
The history of firefighter helmet design is unique, and it’s incredibly interesting to see how far these helmets have come over the years. They are still one of the most important pieces of safety equipment that firefighters use in the field, but finding these helmets can be tricky. Here at the Supply Cache, we have all the different kinds of wildland fire helmets you could ever want or need. Don’t hesitate to contact us today to find the right helmet for you!