Melted Helmets: Badge of Honor?

Does having a melted helmet mean that you are a battle tested Warrior.

Which one is the Better Example?

I am going to talk about an unwritten or very rarely spoken about topic in the fire service, melted helmets.  Why does it seem like we look at the firefighter with the melted eye shields as if they are a true hero.  Last month we were doing live fire evolutions in the burn room. With a group of new firefighters, I went into the instructors room and put on my “BURN GEAR”, not the stuff that I wear on duty, that included my favorite helmet. It is over 10 years old and had been beat up lately in the live fire training their eyes lit up like a child on Christmas morning.  Why is that?

My helmet had seen many battles on the fire ground and had really seen some heat inside the flashover chamber; of course, it had some melted parts to it.  When you are doing live, fire evolutions the instructors catch a little more heat than the students do as we control and build the fires.  This isn’t a badge of honor it’s just what it takes to make the training realistic as possible.  Most of our live burn instructors have old gear that we wear as to keep duty stuff clean.

Let us look at this issue a little closer.  Does your helmet catch more heat than you do, yes.  Should we clean our helmets, yes?  Are the fires we are climbing into more toxic, absolutely!  These toxic chemicals are the ones that stain your helmet that in turn come off on your hands as you take it off. Can we see the danger in that?  With cancer rates, growing among firefighters this concern is real and it is time that we do something about it.  Cleaning your helmet has always been a no-no in my book but my opinion is changing as the smoke is becoming more toxic.

How much heat does it take to melt your bourkes, A LOT?  Look, if we are crawling into smoke that is more toxic and your helmet starts to sag what do you think is next, your facepeice!  With temperatures in a super-heated environment, raise 100 degrees in just 1 foot being an excepted normal what temp does that put your mask at.  Approximately 50 degrees cooler than you helmet, and if polycarbonate melts at around 450 degrees that puts your face-piece at around 400, right?  That mean you are pushing the weakest part of your PPE to its LIMIT!

I will be the first to admit that I always thought that a “smoke up” semi-melted helmet was a badge of honor just as many of you do.  But maybe it’s time that I thought about it a little more and adjust my opinion.  Burnt up helmets that have cancer causing soot on them can me a loaded gun just waiting to go off.  Maybe it’s time for us to live by Chief John Salka’s quote, “ If there is a burnt up helmet in one of my firehouses, their better be a child saved story behind it”


Be safe and Always  #jumpseatready!