News>Kunsan AB Airmen put new firefighting suit through week-long test
Staff Sgt. Timothy Cruz practices donning and doffing procedures with the new Joint Firefighter's Integrated Response Ensemble suit July 28, 2011, at Kunsan Air Base, South Korea. Airmen participated in a final field evaluation of the suit testing the time to put on the J-FIRE suits versus the previous version. Cruz is a firefighter assigned to the 8th Civil Engineer Squadron. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Rasheen Douglas)
Firefighters from 8th Civil Engineer Squadron pull dummies out of a building July 28, 2011, at Kunsan Air Base, South Korea during Exercise Beverly Midnight 11-3. The new Joint Firefighter Integrated Response Ensemble consists of an outer shell to provide liquid protection and a carbon-bead filter material on the inside for vapor protection. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Brittany Y. Bateman)
by Master Sgt. Sonny Cohrs
8th Fighter Wing Public Affairs
8/1/2011 - KUNSAN AIR BASE, South Korea (AFNS) -- Thirty-three Airmen from here participated in a field test of the new Joint Firefighter Integrated Response Ensemble July 25 - 29, providing data and feedback for researchers from the Air Force Research Lab at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio.
Kunsan AB firefighters donned the JFIRE suit for a week-long base exercise in which they responded to a multitude of scenarios involving both conventional and chemical attacks. Bioenvironmental engineers, emergency management and explosive ordnance disposal personnel also tested the suit during the trial.
The JFIRE consists of an outer shell to provide liquid protection and a carbon-bead filter material on the inside for vapor protection, officials said. One of the biggest differences when compared with the current Joint Service Lightweight Integrated Suit Technology in use is the one-piece design of the new outfit. The JFIRE is also lighter and less bulky than the current JSLIST.
"The ensemble specifically allows military firefighters to operate in a chemically contaminated environment," said Chief Master Sgt. Joseph Rivera, a Fire Emergency Services Program manager at the Air Force Civil Engineer Support Agency at Tyndall Air Force Base, Fla. "It allows us to survive if the environment is contaminated with chemical or biological agents, and should we need to respond and operate in a fire or other oxygen deficient atmosphere, we can (also) do that."
Because firefighters wear their protective chemical suits underneath their traditional firefighting gear, the reduction in weight allows them to better perform their mission, he said. The new JFIRE also includes upgraded helmets, gloves and boots.
"You're basically wearing two firefighter ensembles, so it's extremely hot, extremely taxing on the firefighter," the chief said. "We're really trying to improve the suit by reducing the thermal burden, weight and improve flexibility to make the job easier for the firefighter."
Also on hand for the testing was Jennifer Schroeder, a contractor for Fire Research Group at Tyndall's Air Force Research Lab. Initially, the program started three years ago with a "call to industry" looking for new material and potential suit designs, she said. Several vendors made submissions, and the researchers were able to narrow those submissions down to three candidates for further testing.
"Things are totally different in the field than they can be in a laboratory environment," Schroeder said. "We don't want to provide them with something we think is better; we actually want the feedback from the firefighters."
Firefighters with Kunsan AB's 8th Civil Engineer Squadron put the new JFIRE through its paces and provided their feedback. Staff Sgt. Jeffrey Kronenberger, an 8th CES firefighter, said he likes the suit overall and enjoyed the opportunity to provide his feedback on the new suit.
"The most beneficial thing about the one-piece suit, versus the two-piece suit, is the lack of a drawstring," he said. "It also keeps the pants from sagging down and stuffing into my fire boots."
Despite the lighter weight of the new JFIRE, Kronenberger said he hasn't really noticed a big difference in the temperature when wearing his full array of gear because of the current 90 percent humidity and temperatures approaching 100 degrees. However, he said he is impressed overall with the new system being tested.
"The boots are a lot more flexible," he said. "There is a little more padding in them, and they're softer. The new glove liners are a lot better than having no glove liner at all."
Tech. Sgt. Thomas Ryan, a Det. 1, 823rd RED HORSE fire contingency instructor at Tyndall AFB, wore one of the original prototypes prior to the field testing, looking for ways to improve the suit before bringing it here. The current iteration is the culmination of about four different suits.
"I've worn both suits, and this suit is miles apart. It's so much better than the old suit," he said. "It has all sorts of bells and whistles that are designed for a firefighter to make our lives easier."