SOUTH BEND – It's a new look that will help them save lives. South Bend firefighters are gearing up in brand new bunker gear that's much safer and more efficient than older gear.
And the new gear could save their lives and yours.
"It's our lifeline, we have to have good gear," said John Cortheir, battalion chief of training at the South Bend Fire Department.
It's an outer shell of protection. An outfit that could help firefighters save your life.
"This is life or death. We have to have the best protection we can afford, and this definitely gives us the best protection anyone could have," Corthier said.
South Bend is one of the first departments in the country to try out the improved heat resistant fabric in this new gear.
The color is also bold – gear changed from a tan color to bright lime green and black. Colors that will stand out in the day and reflect light at night.
Firefighters spent Friday afternoon testing out the new features.
"They like the change of gear, they like what the new gear has to offer," Corthier said.
It's more flexible and resists heat better than ever before.
Most importantly, it weighs less, allowing firefighters to move quicker, meaning they get to you faster.
Our reporter tried on the old coat, then a new one. We felt an immediate difference.
The new gear offers two life saving devices: a harness that gives a firefighter an escape in case he's trapped and a drag rescue device with a handle so a firefighter can grab onto a colleague and drag them to safety if incapacitated.
Each outer shell costs $2000, about what they paid for new gear six years ago.
And it's a small price to pay when they're saving lives.
"It gives the firefighter better protection, and that's our main concern," Corthier said.
Firefighters will keep the old gear as backup. And they'll send their even older backup gear to Guatemala for firefighters there to use.