Safety gear is critical in the field of wildland firefighting, but that doesn’t mean every firefighter has the same equipment. Different situations call for different types of equipment, and that goes for firefighting helmets too. Each person has specific requirements, making the process of choosing the right firefighter helmet a complicated but necessary one. The right protection in the line of duty is not something you can compromise on, and the proper helmet is a significant part of the safety gear every wildland firefighter needs.
One of the first and most important variables you must consider when choosing the right wildland firefighting helmet is its safety standards. Without a helmet that meets the proper standards, the wearer is putting themselves in danger while simultaneously hurting their ability to effectively fight fires. Thankfully, there is a clear set of safety requirements—the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) 1977 standards. Proper helmets must meet the minimum component standards, which includes:
- Hardhat-like head protection
- Flame and heat resistance
- Impact resistance
- Suspension system
- Retention system
With a helmet that meets all these standards, the firefighter can stay protected when in the field, fighting these dangerous and highly destructive fires.
In addition to offering comprehensive protection, a quality helmet must also stay comfortable so as to not interfere with the firefighter’s ability to do their job. Comfort can mean a lot of things, but for these helmets specifically, that means an adjustable suspension system. When you’re able to adjust this, you can change how secure the helmet is on your head. You don’t want it to be so tight that it is uncomfortable or restricts movement, but you also don’t want it to be so loose that it falls off. With an adjustable suspension system, you can find the setting that works for you.
Additionally, you need to find a helmet that has the proper amount of padding around the head. Too much padding can create too tight of a fit, but just like the suspension system, too little padding can also hurt your ability to do your job. The right amount of padding protects the wearer’s head, but it will also absorb sweat and minimize heat buildup, making the helmet much more comfortable.
As mentioned already, a big part of the safety standards your helmet must meet is its impact resistance. Extreme temperatures are a significant variable wildland firefighters must protect themselves against, but loose debris and falling branches are another lurking danger. To stay safe, you need a helmet that uses impact-resistant material like hard plastic. Ideally, you want a material that is simultaneously heat resistant and durable, and with the right shell, you can have both. Wildland firefighting is challenging, but with the right materials, you can go out into the field with peace of mind.
The right helmet will protect you from debris and heat, but that’s not the only danger present when confronting a wildfire—you must also protect yourself from smoke. A crucial component that firefighters wear in tandem with their helmet is the face shroud, which will protect you from heat, flames, and smoke. Smoke inhalation is one of the most significant risks of firefighting. Thankfully, a face shroud can help minimize inhalation.
Eye protection is another important variable to consider when looking for helmets. Structural firefighter helmets will have visors, but wildland firefighters will wear goggles or safety goggles with their helmets. Eye protection like this can help firefighters maintain visibility in less-than-optimal conditions while still protecting their eyes.
A quality eye protection accessory should also be adjustable so you can ensure you’re getting adequate protection when out in the field. Additionally, while protection is the most important element of goggles and safety glasses, you shouldn’t compromise on comfort to achieve it. Altogether, your helmet and eye protection need to provide you with three things when out in the field:
There are times when you need more visibility or protection than others, but you shouldn’t compromise on any feature. You’re going to spend a lot of time managing these fires, so find the unique combination of eye protection that can provide you with visibility, protection, and comfort whenever you’re out in the field.
A firefighter needs to be able to see when on duty, and visors can help with this. However, as the sun starts to set, you should also make sure that you’re visible to those around you. Visibility is guaranteed with the right reflective stripes and decals. When firefighters incorporate these simple additions to their helmets, they’re ensuring they can still get the job done while everyone else on their team can see where they are. Firefighters must still work at night when visibility isn’t optimal, and these reflective additions can help make sure everyone has each other's back when in the field.
It’s important that others can see you, but it’s also critical that you’re able to see what’s in front of you. Wildfires are incredibly bright, but a substantial part of firefighting is containing these fires even after the biggest flames are eliminated. To safely navigate the dark, consider a helmet with LED lights, or opt for LED light attachments. However, it is important to note that LED lights won’t stay illuminated forever—maintaining battery life is an aspect of this attachment that you cannot neglect.
Getting the right LED lights for your needs and ensuring that they’re powered and have the batteries they need to function is just another responsibility wildland firefighters have, but it’s an important one. Visibility at all times of the day in the firefighting process is paramount to getting the job done efficiently and safely.
With all of this information, hopefully you can better understand how to choose the right firefighter helmet so you can stay safe and effective out in the field. At The Supply Cache, we offer the best line of products to help you contain these fires as quickly as possible while avoiding danger. We can’t directly help you in the field, but we do have the high-quality wildland firefighter helmets and other safety gear you need to get the job done!