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Longboat Key Wednesday, Nov. 20, 2019 7 months ago

Longboat Key fire department switching to lighter helmets

The town's firefighters will begin wearing the fiberglass-style Phenix model in December.
by: Brendan Lavell Staff Writer

When people think of firefighters, a few things come to mind: fire trucks, bulky coats, maybe Dalmatians or those poles they slide down in TV shows and movies. Last, but not least, are their helmets. Longboat Key firefighters will soon be recognized by some starkly different headwear.

The Longboat Key Fire Rescue Department is switching to a new helmet in December. The Phenix helmets the department will now use are about a pound and a half lighter than the old ones, which have contributed to neck injuries during the five or six years that they have been in commission.

Helmets usually last about 10 years, but the department was proactive about obtaining new ones to put less strain on firefighters’ necks. The older helmets typically weighed around 55 ounces. The new ones are about 31 or 32.

The Phenix helmets, at about $300 each, cost less than the models the department has used recently. Both the new and old ones are considered composite helmets, but the Phenix is more of a fiberglass-style.

The new helmets also have smaller brims. When firefighters wear air tanks, the brim of their older helmets can bump into the tanks, which decreases mobility. The new helmets, with smaller brims, will allow the firefighters more freedom to move their heads up and down.

When the department’s safety committee evaluated its equipment recently, some firefighters complained about experiencing neck pain. So four or five different helmets were brought in, everyone tried them on over the course of two weeks, and then a vote was held. The Phenix helmets won out.

The Phenix helmet looks less traditional than the Longboat Key fire department's old helmets. It is also a pound and a half lighter.

“[The Phenixes] are very light,” Fire Chief Paul Dezzi said. “They can use it for all types of calls. It doesn’t look as tough as [the old ones], but they both follow the same standards, the National Fire Protection Association.”

The old helmets, which have a more traditional look, are more popular on the East Coast. The Phenix helmets are starting to catch on in California.

As of now, Longboat Key’s firefighters wear a mixture of MSA, Honeywell and Cairns helmets. These will become backups next month after everyone is issued a Phenix helmet.

Brendan Lavell is a general assignment reporter for the Observer. He earned degrees in journalism and history at the University of Missouri. He has visited 48 of the 50 United States, has a black cat named Arya and roots for the Eagles, Flyers, Phillies, 76ers and Chelsea FC.

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