Protective fire kit designed by firefighters for firefighters has been revealed for the very first time in Wales.
It is a proud milestone for Welsh crews who collaborated to shape the new advanced design in a ground-breaking two-year project, which saw the final contract awarded to supplier Ballyclare.
New recruits from South Wales Fire and Rescue Service proudly displayed their new kit for the first time at their official passing out parade at Cardiff Gate Training and Development Centre. The kit will be rolled out across South, North and Mid and West Wales over the next 12 months to assist firefighters in best protecting our communities.
The Xenon fire kit is lightweight and provides maximum protection, aiming to minimise the risk of heat stress, which can impact decision-making, by reducing the physiological load on the wearer. The innovative design provides high levels of comfort, breathability and freedom of movement, while ensuring excellent thermal protection, including being water resistant and quick drying.
Chief Fire Officer Huw Jakeway QFSM, South Wales Fire and Rescue Service, said, “Our operational crews need first-class kit, vehicles and personal protective equipment to respond to the different emergencies and protect our communities the best we can. It is essential our crews wear personal protective clothing that has the latest technology and safety features, this ensures our crews have the very best protection and confidence in their equipment. The three Welsh fire and rescue services have a long and proud history of collaboration, and this is another clear example that enhances firefighter safety while ensuring best value. I really would like to thank everyone that took part in the trials and gave their feedback on this protective clothing, this really is fire kit designed and worn by firefighters across Wales.”
Performance trials took place back in April 2019, in Earlswood, where crews on an all-Wales basis took part in the extensive end-user trials. The comprehensive evaluations took place over a period of five days, with each set of kit evaluated in a number of key areas through practical scenarios. These included: road traffic collisions, working at height, hose running, working in confined spaces, a casualty drag and hot fire breathing apparatus wears.
Chief Fire Officer Simon Smith, North Wales Fire and Rescue Service, said, “Firefighter safety is a priority for us – and this latest generation of fire kit improves the safety and comfort of our firefighters at emergencies. Modern fire fighting is about so much more than attending fires – we wanted a kit that could help and support crews protecting their communities at a range of incidents. Feedback from firefighters trialling the kit was key to helping us select the best kit possible – and I’d like to thank everyone involved in the process. We are proud to have been able to work with colleagues at South Wales Fire and Rescue Service and Mid and West Wales Fire and Rescue Service to procure and purchase the new fire kit, which will help protect our firefighters at incidents across the country.”
Following the intensive performance trials the shortlisted kits then underwent station-based pilots. The final stage saw experienced crews carrying out extensive compartment fire fighting techniques and procedures in extremely challenging conditions in Dolgellau’s Fire Behaviour Facility.
Chief Fire Officer Chris Davies QFSM, Mid and West Wales Fire and Rescue Service, said, “Each and every day, our firefighters risk their lives in the name of protecting our communities. The safety and protection of our firefighters is paramount and that is why we are delighted to have worked with South Wales Fire and Rescue Service and North Wales Fire and Rescue Service to provide our firefighters with the latest and very best Structural PPE available to us.
“Mid and West Wales Fire and Rescue Service will be rolling out the new Structural PPE to its firefighters later this year, alongside an innovative PPmE concept, which will simplify the way Structural PPE is allocated and managed. This is a first amongst UK fire and rescue services.
“Through the use of specialist software, scanners and radio frequency identification technology, PPmE will have the capability to track and trace each garment stowed in specialist storage units at fire stations. In short, PPmE will not only allow us to ensure that every firefighter has access to the correct size of Structural PPE, at all times, but it will also utilise Structural PPE more efficiently and provide Mid and West Wales Fire and Rescue Service with far greater control of its assets, through a near real-time tracking capability.”
A spokesperson for Ballyclare said, “At Ballyclare, we recognise the vast and increasing range of operations carried out by Welsh firefighters, so we combined the excellent tensile strength of the PBI outer fabric with a double air channel formed by the moisture barrier and liner to dissipate heat, optimising protection and breathability. Firefighters in Wales will also be the first in the UK to benefit from a ground breaking safety innovation, VizLite DT, increasing their visibility in dark conditions. Ballyclare is delighted to provide this innovative flagship design to firefighters across Wales.”