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Thursday, February 14, 2013

Station Life: Do Firefighters Really Leave Their Boots in Their Pants?

Today’s Station Life answers two burning questions: Do firefighters really leave their boots in their turnout pants, and for that matter, why is it called turnout gear?

A set of turnout gear staged and ready to go at the Engineer’s door of Ladder 1

Brentwood Fire and Rescue requires that their Firefighters be able to respond to a call in less than 60 seconds. That means that as soon as a dispatcher notifies them of the call, the clock starts, and they now have less than one minute remaining to ‘turn out’, or put on their gear, get on the truck and depart the station for the call.

Training plays a key role in meeting this standard, but being able to just step into your boots and pull up your pants definitely helps! Having your gear waiting by the fire truck doesn’t hurt either. In the photo above, the firefighters have their boots waiting by their doors while their coats are lying just inside the cab, waiting to be donned. Each firefighter has a preference for how they like their gear to be laid out, usually one developed through lots of practice and years of experience.

Another frequently asked question is “why is it called turnout gear?” The name turnout gear most likely comes from one of the definitions for the phrase ‘Turn Out’, which can mean “to call (as the guard or a company) out from rest or shelter and into formation”. That seems pretty fitting since a fire company is expected to leave the comfort of the station to respond to an emergency (turning out and gearing up) regardless of time of day or weather conditions.

You may also hear a firefighter’s protective equipment referred to as bunker gear or night pants. These terms both come from when firefighters wore a pair of rubber boots that came three-quarters of the way up their legs. In addition to these three-quarter boots firefighters would wear a long coat that hung past the top of the boots. When a firefighter went to bed at night, he would keep a pair of pants and a set of boots by his bed. These were easier to quickly put on in the middle of the night than a pair of pants and the three-quarter boots separately. Since this gear was kept in the bunk room, it became known as bunker gear. Eventually this would evolve and become part of a modern firefighter’s protective equipment.

So there you have it. Firefighters really do leave their boots in their pants to speed up the process of getting ready to respond to a call, and they’ve been doing it for years and years.