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Cooler heads prevail: Fire department dons helmet of the future

By Austin Jackson | Published Wednesday, January 16, 2019
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New lids

NEW LIDS – Rhome firefighters Paul Thomas, chief Darrell Fitch, Corbin Fitch and Thomas Cannon don the department’s new fire helmets. The helmets are a break from the traditional American fire helmet design that originated in the 19th century. Messenger photo by Joe Duty

The Rhome Volunteer Fire Department was on scene, battling a house fire last year when the floor collapsed underneath Corbin Fitch.

He fell backwards, striking his head on a metal beam in the house. The blow pushed the traditional fire helmet off his head.

“It caught the top of the lip of the helmet and pushed the helmet up and I hit my head on the beam,” he said.

Fitch was OK after the fall, but the scary moment was one that no one wanted to occur again.

In a move for safety, Rhome Fire Chief Darrell Fitch purchased new, European-style fire helmets, replacing a traditional helmet design that dates back to the 1800’s.

“As a fire chief, I need to give my people the best possible way of succeeding with equipment,” the chief said. “There’s a lot of people with personal opinions about them. But a lot of guys haven’t tried them. Instead of jumping in with opinions, I thought let’s go ahead and get some and see for ourselves. So far they’ve worked great.”

The Rhome Fire Department was needing to update its helmets with the former helmets nearing 10-years-old.

After doing some research, Fitch decided to go with the new European-style helmets. The helmets are equipped with light systems, feature two different face masks and come with housing for radio communication devices.

One of the biggest obstacles is the helmet’s appearance, Fitch said.

Instead of the traditional look that’s integral to the aesthetic of the American firefighter, the new look is different. Its round shell protects more of the head, but it has drawn jeers by some.

“We’ve been teased a lot. We get Lord Helmet from ‘Spaceballs.’ We’ve been called everything,” Fitch said. “But I really don’t mind that. I have a duty. I’m responsible for these guys to make sure I can get them the best equipment to do their job the best they can. If this is one of those things that gets us on to the next level, that’s what we’ll do.”

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