Difference Between Firefighter Boots and Wildland Firefighter Boots

Ahhh… how one word makes a huge difference in boot design and use.

So what is the difference between “firefighter boots” and “wildland firefighter boots”, also known as “fire boots” or by the names applied to the boots by their respective manufacturers, such as “Firestormer” (Wesco) and “Smokejumpers” (White’s Boots).

More after the jump…

Chipfire202“Firefighter boots” — also known as station boots — are a specialized, or named version of general purpose tactical boots. These types of boots are designed primarily for comfort, as well as some degree of protection. But the boots are not generally waterproof, heat-resistant, or lined with protective insulation that resists heat transfer.

Firefighter boots are designed for general-purpose uses to wear them around a fire station and for duty while not engaged in actual firefighting. The boots look good, are comfortable for a lot of standing and walking, such as when giving station tours, doing inspections, or giving talks in the community. (This is what I do as a volunteer and Life Member of my local fire department.)

When a firefighter responds to a working fire, he (or she) takes off his station boots and pulls on full turnout gear, including protective boots that provide thermal protection and are waterproof. Usually “fire boots” are made of synthetic materials that are completely watertight.

Chipfire201Because a firefighter has to take his station boots off and don turnout gear and specialized protective boots before hopping into the truck and heading out to a fire, his station boots must be easy to remove quickly. This explains why station boots have a boot zipper down the middle. Quick zip open, and off they come.

By the way, bikers looking for recommendations on the best boots for motorcycling will likely have seen my blog posts where I recommend this specific type of boot to wear. These boots are sturdy, comfortable, not hot, easy to put on and take off, simple to maintain, provide good traction with a lug sole, and break in easily. They are terrific for wearing while riding a motorcycle.

Fire-Camp_2013_Blackbird-62Wildland Firefighting Boots are exceptionally well-built to provide protection, heat resistance, as well as comfort to men who fight wildfires. A lot of that work requires heavy labor with picks and shovels on rugged terrain and usually in very hot weather.

41HWi1qPfzL._SX395_The basic design of wildland firefighting boots is a standard logger-style. The uppers (everything above the sole/heel) are made from heavy-gauge cowhide and are from 8 to 12 inches (20 to 30cm) high. Boot laces routed back-and-forth through metal eyelets secure each boot to the wearer’s foot. This design permits a snug fit and provides support around the firefighter’s ankles and lower legs. A fully gusseted tongue (fully gusseted means both sides of the tongue are stitched to the inside of the eyelet strip from bottom to top) keeps rocks, dirt and other friction sources out of the boots.

The soles are usually full lugs and have a prominent heel. The soles are stitched on, and sometimes even screws are used strategically to ensure the sole remains adhered to the boot.

These boots are tough to break in. Frequently, wildland firefighters experience blisters on the back of the ankle and at the heel. But once broken in, these boots will provide the best protection as well as comfort for a firefighter’s feet. That’s why it is recommended to buy new boots during the off-season, and break them in well before working on an active fire.

Finally, wildland firefighter boots must meet exacting safety standards.

Summary

Yes, one word can make a big difference when it comes to selecting boots. As I always say,

Life is short: choose the right boot for the right application.