If you watch the news, you’ve seen them often in recent years. Red-clad French firefighters have been present on the scene after the attacks on Charlie Hebdo, the yellow vests demonstrations, and the recent Notre Dame fire. Not coincidentally, the high-profile French fire brigade is also a forerunner when it comes to modern trends — their red firefighter suits are quickly being adopted by other fire brigades around the world. In this article, we explore why red is much more than an esthetic colour choice, but also a safer and more practical solution. After all, firefighter suits should offer their wearers the best protection possible.
Changing times, changing trends
Traditionally, firefighters dressed in navy-coloured suits which were rarely washed. Why not? A dirty garment showed the firefighter as a hero in action, with no time to clean his suit. With the rise of concern over particle contamination, however, gold-coloured garments have gained popularity as an alternative to make smoke particles more visible. As a result of this trend, firefighter garments were now also washed more often, which made durability an important consideration.
3 advantages of red
As mentioned, the red trend can be traced to France, where the fire brigade has often been featured in the news in recent years. But why is red so popular? There’s more than meets the eye. Red firefighter garments owe their rise to three main practical advantages.
1. Differentiation & visibility
One of the main advantages of red is the differentiation it provides from other emergency personnel. A variety of forces are often present at the scene of an emergency — police, military, ambulance workers, firefighters and cleaning services are just a few examples. Most of these forces typically wear navy-coloured suits. Another colour commonly featured on emergency sites is high-visibility yellow - in road traffic accidents, for instance - which can be very difficult to distinguish from gold-coloured garments from afar.
It’s no wonder, then, that the colour red makes firefighter suits literally stand out in an emergency. Firefighters can easily identify their colleagues from other emergency personnel, while bystanders can clearly spot the firefighters from a distance. This gives the colour red a very practical advantage: differentiation.
2. Better radiant heat protection
Red has more than just eye-catching benefits, though. Red suits actually provide better protection for firefighters than navy- or gold-coloured ones. But how can a simple difference in colour be responsible for safer firefighting? From the entire colour spectrum, red is the colour which naturally offers the highest level of protection against radiation and infrared light. Fire emits heat and radiation, and a red-coloured firefighter suit will provide the highest protection against radiant heat. This is a very tangible benefit for wearers when comparing red-coloured suits to other colours.
3. Shows particles without looking dirty
The reason why gold-coloured suits became more popular in the first place was that a soiled golden garment is more easily recognisable than a soiled navy one. This trend was strongly linked to the concerns about cancer amongst firefighters, as carcinogenic smoke particles could be seen better on golden suits. This way, they knew when the suits should be washed.
Nowadays, fire brigades seem to be moving away from gold. Although it’s a health and safety advantage to be able to identify when they are dirty, the gold-coloured suits are difficult to clean - particularly when it comes to grease stains which penetrate the surface of the fibre. Once they get soiled, they quickly look old and filthy, getting them completely clean is an almost impossible task.
Red is brighter than navy, allowing dirt and smoke particles to be more visible. It’s also slightly darker than gold, making the suits look less dirty. This makes red the ideal compromise between navy and gold. In order to take care of the garment regarding its safety and looks, determining the right washing protocol is strongly advised.
Pre-dyed for superior colour-fastness
It’s clear that red-coloured firefighter suits are a trend that is here to stay. In order to make your red fire suits an even better investment, TenCate Protective Fabrics avoids traditional piece-dyeing of fabrics. Produced colour solutions offer better colour-fastness and are therefore a better investment. The produced colour garments from TenCate Protective Fabrics are an attractive solution with a much longer life cycle.
By choosing a produced red colour garment for your fire brigade, you ensure a better return on investment, more differentiation on emergency scenes and — most importantly — better protection for your firefighters. Our Fire Service advisors would be happy to help you in this process. If you have any questions about protective clothing for firefighters, the trends in this community or the selection process, please feel free to contact us.