EVANSDALE – Some firefighters in Evansdale are breaking from tradition when it comes to an essential piece of protection.
Two members of Evansdale Fire Rescue are trying out jet-style fire helmets that eschew the iconic wide brim for a streamlined design more akin to a motorcycle helmet.
“You get a lot of slack about it. People ask ‘You pull up on your moped? Where’s your motorcycle?’ I get that. I tell them it’s parked behind the fire truck,” said Fire Chief Ryan Phillips, who has donned a new helmet when answering calls.
Phillips said the design -- also called European-style because of its popularity with overseas fire departments for more than a decade -- offers better balance and extra protection to the side and back of the head.
“On the side, it covers down below here, where the old ones are above the ear,” Phillips said.
They come with two shields -- one for eye protection while using cutting tools and another that covers the full face -- that slide up into helmet’s body when not in use.
Flashlights are built in at the temple level. On the traditional style, the lights have to be mounted separately.
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The most noticeable difference is the absence of the wide brim, the iconic feature of the traditional helmet. The brim is meant to keep water from running into firefighters’ turnout coats, said Pete Weber, a longtime fixture with Evansdale Fire Rescue and a former department chief.
The downside is the back of the brim can knock into the air tanks that firefighters wear on their backs when attacking blazes indoors.
The new helmets come with a comparatively smaller lip on the back of the neck to serve this purpose.
“If you got your gear on, it should deflect most or all of it, about the same deal,” Phillips said. He said the lip is small enough to avoid contact with the air tank.
Evansdale’s two helmets are manufactured by MSA. The cost -- somewhere in the $350 range -- is comparable to the cost of traditional headgear.
The new helmets aren’t part of a department-wide shift, Phillips said. Evansdale Fire Rescue just re-equipped its volunteers with traditional helmets only a few years ago, and they last about 10 years.