The Los Angeles Fire Department announced a donation Thursday that put new wildfire specific helmets in the hands, and on the heads, of the department’s 3,000 firefighters as the city approaches the height of wildfire season.
The Los Angeles Fire Department Foundation, a private support organization, helped to raise the $80,000 needed to purchase the 3,200 helmets. One of the biggest sources of funds was from Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, which contributed $50,000 to the cause.
Karen Wagener, the president of the Los Angeles Fire Department Foundation, said the donation was about helping those on the frontlines of protecting Los Angeles residents.
"They take care of us," she said at a press conference. "We want to take care of them."
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LAFD Deputy Chief Joseph Castro said the new helmets are specifically designed to be used in wildfire situations so they are lighter and more comfortable than standard fire helmets.
"The extra two pounds of weight that is left off the head allows us to be more effective and safe in all conditions," Castro said at a press conference. "Especially in the long hours, the tough hours, required of wildland firefights."
While they provide less impact protection than helmets for structural fires, the new helmets feature wider brims that keep the faces of those working under the hot sun protected.
Officials said the new helmets mean firefighters are less likely to succumb to heat exhaustion and heat stroke while working under scorching conditions and carrying loads of heavy gear.
Castro said firefighters regularly work 12-hour shifts during the traditional brush fire season, which reaches its height in the middle of California’s hot and dry summer.
While firefighters have access to other wildfire specific gear, the new helmets represents the last piece of equipment needed to upgrade firefighters’ toolkit, Castro said.
With wildfires racking the Southern California in recent months, officials also took the opportunity to urge residents to clear the brush around their homes and prepare in advance for emergency evacuation.