According to Fire Chief Tom Jones, the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) has set a standard that bunker gear should be used no more than 10 years. Jones said Monett's smaller department gives its equipment that much use in about seven years, which is the last time the gear was replaced.
The gear was manufactured by the Sperian company, which bought out the manufacturer of the old gear. Jones said the NFPA set a standard about four years ago requiring a new feature in all bunker gear. New suits all have a built-in harness with straps in the arm holes connected to a pull cord around the neck.
Jones explained that the chord serves as a way to move a firefighter who collapses during a blaze. A fellow fireman can grab the cord and pull or hoist a colleague even with limited mobility. The firemen limit practice with the harness because of the difficulty in returning it to its place.
Another new feature is a switch from rubber boots to leather boots. The special boots are made of bull hide, which does not stretch.
"The boots are waterproof, breatheable and fit more like a shoe than an old rubber boot," Jones said. "They're easier on the back, foot and leg. They're the going trend among other departments and should last at least as long as the old boots. They are also back but still reflect the sun."
The bunker gear cost $36,595 and the boots cost an additional $3,647.
Rather than have names placed on the back of the new gear, making it harder to pass equipment to another fireman, American flags were sewn on the back instead, Jones said.
The new bunker gear will stay at the city's fire stations. The old gear will go home with the firemen, enabling them to respond directly to a fire without coming to the station first.
"A lot of the old gear had holes in it, and some were melted in spots," Jones said. "Some of them went through the A-1 Rental and McDonald's fires, pretty major fires. We have a lady who sews them up for us. When she says there's no longer anything else she can do, you know it's time to do something else. Everybody's happy with the new gear."