The cloths a fireman decides to wear can help to determine if they survive an encounter with hazardous temperatures. This is one of the reasons the United States department of agriculture, Forest Service recommends to all of its employees that fight fires to wear all natural fibers under their protective gear. This is in Chapter 7 of “The Interagency Standards for Fire and Fire Aviations Operations 2009” manual.
100% cotton is the preferred choice for clothing that should be worn under the personal protective clothing a fire fighter will wear into battle. The reason for this conclusion involves the physical characteristics of cotton. A fire fighter will be working in harsh and extremely hot conditions. They will be perspiring a great deal. Cotton is known for its ability to absorb moisture from a person wearing a clothing item made from it. When this occurs, cotton is also known to have a cooling effect on the body of the wearer.
Another reason the recommendation for cotton or another natural fiber to be only worn is due to the fact that synthetic fibers have a lower melting point. Polyester, polypropylene and nylon materials melt at high temperatures. The melting process will cause the skin of the fire fighter to become burned resulting in an injury. 100% cotton fabrics have been tested and were found not to ignite, char or melt during testing conducted by the US government.
The thermal resistance of a material is determined in part by the weave the fabric is made from. The preferred weave for cotton for firemen to wear as undergarments is the Jersey weave. The weight of the fabric should be 4.4 ounces per square yard. It is also preferable that the 100% under garments be treated with flame retardants.
The exact kind and style of the under garments used by individual fire fighters is a personal choice. For the lower half of the body a fire fighter can chose boxer, briefs or full length long johns. For the upper portion of the body t-shirts are recommended. This can be either short or long sleeves. The choice of white or non dyed 100% cotton is also preferred and recommend.
On the feet a fire fighter wears rubber boots while on the job. Next to their skin is a pair of socks. These socks should again be 100% non dyed cotton. Most cotton socks do contain a small amount of elastic to help keep them up on the calves of the wearer. The exact amount preferred is not recommended but the smaller the amount reduces the chances of this elastic melting to the fire fighter and reducing the chances of them becoming burned by it.
The uniform a fire fighter wears into battle is issued to them. It is made of the best flame retardant material available today. What they wear under this turnout gear is left to the individual as long as it is made of 100% natural material. For nearly all of the fire fighters, this is cotton.
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