As a result of better regulation and fire prevention initiatives, most firefighters spend only a small percentage of their time fighting structural fires. Figures from the Home Office for the financial year 2020 to 2021 show that less than a third (29 per cent) of the 518,263 incidents attended by FRSs in the UK were fire-related emergencies.

Instead, today’s callouts tend to vary in type and complexity, from road traffic collisions to chemical spills, medical incidents, storm damage and water rescues, over and above fire-related incidents ranging from dwelling or industrial fires to wildfires. As a result, just as firefighters need a wide range of skills and training in order to operate effectively in these diverse situations, their PPE must also be adaptable and versatile so that it provides optimal protection. The challenge for PPE providers such as MSA is to create ensembles that are at once lightweight, ergonomic, heat and flame resistant, and breathable, whilst protecting against pathogens, hazardous chemicals and the elements.

Structural Firefighting PPE

Full structural firefighting PPE, such as MSA Bristol’s EOS and XFlex ranges, is a must when firefighters are called to tackle fires. These designs have a three-layer construction, with outer fabric to protect from heat and flame, whilst inner moisture barrier systems from Gore help to keep the body cool and dry. This type of PPE is vital for protecting firefighters from a dangerous rise in body temperature known as heat stress. Both ranges also have curved seams that follow the shape of the body, as well as under arm gussets and three-dimensional articulated elbows and knees, which allow maximum movement and flexibility. EOS is even more flexible thanks to distinctive, supple and reflective taping called HEX-TT, and has specific design features to avoid the build-up of harmful smoke particles in vulnerable areas.


Urban search and rescue (USAR) PPE, however, is ideal when firefighters have to work in confined spaces or attend road traffic accidents. These garments often have a two-layer construction incorporating a flame retardant outer layer with a waterproof membrane to provide flexibility and physical protection against injury when deployed in collapsed buildings or damaged vehicles, for example. MSA Bristol’s RescueFlex range consists of a rescue jacket and trouser based on our XFlex design. It is tear and puncture resistant, lightweight to minimise heat stress and provides protection against blood borne pathogens. It also has reinforcements on the knee and elbow for protection when kneeling or crawling and offers a high level of flexibility for excellent manoeuvrability. RescueFlex meets the CEN standard EN:16689:2017 which specifies requirements for technical rescue clothing.

Increasingly, fire and rescue services are now moving towards a layered, mix-and-match approach to PPE, choosing to combine lightweight, high visibility rescue jackets with structural trousers when attending incidents such as road traffic collisions. For example, through the UK Collaborative PPE Framework, 21 fire and rescue services across the country have procured MSA Bristol’s RescueFlex jackets in addition to full structural jackets and trousers. These include Leicestershire, Kent, West Midlands, Oxfordshire, Hampshire, Nottinghamshire and Cornwall FRSs to name a few, who have opted for the flexibility to select the most appropriate garments depending on the nature of the call-out.


In addition to selecting the right protective garments for the job, sourcing the right helmet to suit a variety of incidents is also crucial. MSA’s iconic GALLET F1XF jet-style firefighting helmet continues to be a popular choice amongst fire services across the UK and beyond and is suitable for structural firefighting. It offers superior, unimpeded vision in all directions, 360-degree head protection against heat and impact, and has lighting and communications integrated into the design for excellent quality radio communication. Functional and versatile, the GALLET F1XF fits particularly well with MSA Bristol’s protective hoods and structural firefighting jackets.

However, in response to the need for a more versatile helmet suitable for rescue operations, MSA has launched the new GALLET F2XR – the first and only firefighters’ helmet on the market that can be used in a wide range of applications, including wildland firefighting and technical rescue operations, rescue at height and water rescue operations.

Owing to its modular and versatile design, the GALLET F2XR suits a wide variety of working environments and meets the latest standards for Helmets for Wildland Firefighting (EN16471), Helmets for Technical Rescue (EN16473), Helmets for Mountaineers (EN12492), and Helmets for Water Rescue, and is compliant on both non-motorised and motorised rescue crafts (EN1385 +PAS028).

The new design features substantial upgrades in technology integration, comfort, weight and balance – all without compromising the quality, durability and safety performance expected from the MSA Gallet brand. Innovative features include a retractable ocular visor which can be adjusted to fit the face, and fully integrated LED lamps including both a dual-beam headlamp providing spot lighting and a tail-light to help quickly identify teams on an incident scene.

To ensure optimal airflow and keep wearers cool in hot weather, the helmet also incorporates dual ventilation on the side and at the top of the helmet. Additional click-in accessories such as a face shield to guard against arc flash injuries and earmuffs for hearing protection with integrated communications, makes the F2XR helmet suitable for a wider range of operations.

At MSA, we are constantly adapting and updating our range of products so that they best serve the needs of the modern firefighter. The success of the GALLET F2XR rescue helmet, along with the popular RescueFlex PPE range, demonstrates that it is possible to design and engineer integrated, adaptable and versatile PPE, suitable for a variety of applications, allowing fire and rescue services to better adapt to new scenarios and situations.

Whilst the role of a firefighter has diversified in recent years, I am proud that the PPE industry has risen to the challenge, creating new designs and styles that can be used in combination with a firefighter’s standard structural kit to offer the very best protection for the job in hand.

Hereford and Worcester Fire and Rescue Service

Hereford and Worcester Fire and Rescue Service are based in the West Midlands and have approximately 250 wholetime firefighters and 380 on-call firefighters. They also host one of 29 USAR specialist units in the UK. The service receives nearly 10,000 emergency calls each year requesting assistance at a wide variety of incidents, including road traffic collisions, collapsed structures, water rescues, hazardous materials and animal rescues.

Hereford and Worcester Fire and Rescue Service (HWFRS) purchased lightweight rescue jackets through the Central PPE and Clothing Contract (CPCC), a national procurement scheme for fire and rescue services across England and Wales. Ade Elliott, Area Commander at HWFRS, comments: “We first ordered through the CPCC in 2011 but needed to refresh our kit in 2018. This time, we purchased orange lightweight tunics for crews, and extra lighting for their helmets, alongside the usual full structural ensemble. It has been useful to have a lighter alternative jacket when attending certain incidents.

“Our firefighters tell me the XFlex structural gear and rescue jackets are comfortable to wear and provide good range of movement. I’m satisfied that we’ve managed to provide them with high quality PPE that will continue to offer them excellent protection for each and every call-out, for years to come.”

Cambridgeshire Fire and Rescue Service

Cambridgeshire Fire and Rescue Service were the first in the country to use Bristol’s XFlex structural PPE and RescueFlex jacket in combination. A spokesperson for Cambridgeshire Fire and Rescue Service explains why: “We were looking for kit that uses the latest technology in firefighter clothing, which was ergonomically designed to provide our crews with the very best protection. The safety of our firefighters is of the utmost importance to us, and a host of options went through rigorous testing before our staff chose the very best fit for them.

“The kit is lighter in weight, breathable and offers more support for the wearer than the fire kit we previously used. Having the option to choose between different coats helps ensure our crews are able to stay protected and manage their temperature depending on the conditions.

“Cambridgeshire is a rural county meaning our crews will often attend fires in fields and farmland, particularly during the summer months. The advantage of having the lighter coat is that crews can use it to tackle fires like this without having to carry the additional weight. This is a real advantage when the weather is particularly hot.”