Defective Firefighting Gear Raises Concerns

Gulfport firefighters are on increased alert because of a problem with some protective clothing.

The department is ordering replacement gear for 67 fire suits that have defective moisture linings.

Gulfport's fire chief says there should have been a recall of the defective gear.

Fire suits are high tech gear designed to protect firefighters from extreme heat and moisture. A Gulfport firefighter discovered the defect while cruising the Internet.

"He noticed about a field test having some problems with a particular liner we were using. He tested it. It failed the test. We ordered all of it tested. Three days in a row it failed the tests. We put our firefighters under heightened awareness," said Fire Chief, James White.

The problem with the five to six year old suits is in the inner lining. Made with something called "Breathe Tex", that lining is designed to let air pass through and keep moisture out.

Simply getting rid of the 67 defective uniforms isn't an option.

"We can't shutdown fire protection. You know we've got to make do. Again, rely on our experience and training," said Chief White.

Gulfport firefighters are well aware of the problem. They've been told to rely even more on their training and avoid situations where the moisture lining could cause problems.

"The steam, which is basically the problem with the moisture barrier, would penetrate these barriers. And we would stand a chance of some sort of injury. So, what we try to do is get our people to understand these conditions and, if possible, back out at the time of need," said training officer, Henry Levins.

The company that makes the liner has yet to issue any kind of recall.

Chief White says they should.

"Looking at it now, the information I have now, there certainly should have been. Whenever this became obvious to the manufacturer or distributor, we should have been notified, yes."