02/23/10 319 W - + 7 - 6 Helmets Approved in Budget, 1950

This week we're digging through a couple decades of budget documents, notably 1949 to 1961. Quite a few finds have been found. From recommended staffing levels, to expanded command staff, to even a proposed company of black firefighters. We're planning to post excerpts, as well as a full collection comments, at a later time. Today, let's turn to PPE, specifically helmets.

We've written about RFD helmet history before, and included photos. During the first half of the 20th Century, city firefighters wore dress caps at fire scenes. That's what's seen in photos, and what the oldest retirees remember. From the budget docs, helmets were proposed at least as early as 1949. The proposed expenses for the fiscal year ending June 30, 1950, included $1,520 for "firemen's helmets." Not approved.

The budget for the following fiscal year, 1950-51, expanded the description: "73 helmets for men already employed. These helmets are considered essential for the men to give them as much protection as possible when combating fire and being in dangerous places." The $1,205 expenditure was approved, along with "uniforms, shirts, bunker suits, boots, etc. for men already employed."1

So there we have it, helmets approved and presumably purchased after June 30, 1950. That aligns with this historic film footage, for example, which shows helmets in action on November 25, 1950, at a fire at St. Augustine's College. Other old media should also confirm.

1Bunker suits and boots, does that mean that the first PPE was also acquired at that time? Not sure. The News & Observer on January 1, 1944, reported the arrival of a shipment of waterproof "globe suits," which had been ordered that fall. Don't know if all personnel were issued same. Don't know if boots were issued as well. To be determined. Additionally, in days of very old, Raleigh's volunteer firefighters had rubber coats, or some companies did. Don't have specific years or decades at hand for citation, however.

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