Hainsworth Protective Fabrics are excited to be returning to AFAC, Australia’s largest emergency services conference. We will be exhibiting throughout the show from 23 to 26 August in Adelaide, South Australia. Held in person for the first time since 2019, the event’s themes will focus on resilience and community – highly relevant topics for a part of the world where extreme weather is increasingly frequent, and many firefighters work on a volunteer basis.
It is a region that Hainsworth is proud to work closely with, and one that presents unique challenges and opportunities to us as fabric manufacturers. As a country with a highly variable climate that makes it prone to wildfires, the fabrics we supply for use in Australia’s firefighter uniforms have to not only be flame retardant but durable and comfortable to wear.
Hainsworth fabrics are currently worn by fire brigades in Victoria and South Australia, representing approximately 18,300 paid and volunteer firefighters responsible for tackling incidents across both metropolitan and rural areas (a combined 1.2 million square kilometres of land).
This region of Australia features a diverse climate, from very hot and arid inland in the north, to cooler more Mediterranean temperatures in the coastal south. Firefighters in this part of the country need PPE that can withstand a variety of harsh weather conditions, from storms to bushfires, while remaining breathable and comfortable to wear over long periods of physical activity.
Stephen Boucher, Operational Specialist Equipment Officer at South Australia Country Fire Services (CFS) explains that the latter quality is crucial for him when it comes to selecting PPE: ‘A main priority for wildland PPE is that it’s designed in such a way as to allow the wearer some relief from metabolic heat – this is the heat that’s generated by your body from physical activity. If a firefighter is wearing a garment that isn’t specifically designed for high activity scenarios, they risk developing heat exhaustion, endangering theirs and others’ lives.’
Developed in collaboration with Australian firefighters, Hainsworth’s ECO-DRY Shield fabric was created with these concerns in mind. The textile was inspired by the introduction of new wildland firefighting PPE standards in Australia that more accurately reflected the needs of firefighters who operate in bushfire conditions. Firefighters who work in these environments may have to trek a long way to the source of a fire and wear their PPE all day while carrying out their duties. Upon the introduction of these standards, it was identified that a lighter weight, excellent moisture management properties and high durability are all critical characteristics for wildland garments.
The requirements set out by these new standards led us to create ECO-DRY Shield, the ultimate textile for wildland firefighting PPE. The innovative fabric structure is made from a combination of aramids and merino wool viscose. The former fibres protect from flame while the latter wick away moisture, helping the wearer to maintain a comfortable body temperature. ECO-DRY Shield is now worn by the wildland firefighters of Victoria and South Australia, and is helping them to continue to carry out their vital work safely and effectively.
‘We’re delighted with the way that ECO-DRY Shield performs as part of our wildland ensemble,’ says Stephen Boucher. ‘It provides great breathability, which is a crucial feature to prevent that build-up of metabolic heat. It also wicks away moisture really well, which helps keep you cool in tough environments.
‘In comparison to other wildland garments that I’ve tested, which can feel like wearing cardboard, the comfort that ECO-DRY Shield provides is incredible.’
Visit Hainsworth Protective Fabrics at stand 224 at AFAC 2022.