I've always been a fan of traditional style helmets (especially leathers). It's part of the firefighter tradition. My helmet is gorgeous. Beautiful carved eagle, proud front shield, grandpa's old infantry pin, and a little soot and chips never hurt. I don't have anything too fancy on it or anything that screams "entanglement hazard" on it, but that's exactly what happened.

On a recent fire, (this week recent) I experienced the worst possible scenario. An entanglement. Single story residential, smoke showing from the eves. I, being one of the smaller guys, went into the attic to locate the seat of it along with a fellow firefighter. To put it lightly, there was s**t everywhere. Boxes, clothes hangers, wires, the works. Extremely smokey but no flames that we could see right away. As we dug deeper into the attic a stack of boxes shifted and fell onto us. No big deal. Except the fact that that along with those boxes, came down wires and Christmas decorations attached and tied into the rafters. Apparently it was always December in there. I went to dig deeper and couldn't move my head. "Oh f**k."

My helmet was completely tangled in a mess of what was described above. It felt like my helmet was imbedded in cement. How that happened, I still have no idea. My partner however, was in no distress at all. I bet you can guess why. Me, being the stubborn ass that I am, carry nothing that would free me. I either carry an axe, or a nozzle. (Cue the "you're an idiot" replies). Thankfully he was able to cut my helmet free or I would have had to swallow my pride and call a mayday rather than risk removing my helmet inside. I'd rather go back to the station catching s**t from the guys than leave in a body bag. Call me crazy.

Now I know this wasn't a "fall through the floor while saving an old lady and becoming trapped" story, but you really don't know the feeling unless you've actually been in it. It definitely increases the pucker factor.

As much as I hate to, I am officially retiring my leather head today and moving on with a modern style. Plus I'm sure it'll be a little easier on the neck. Thankfully this wasn't as bad as it could've been. (I'm sure most of you are saying "this guy is such a girl!") I'm just glad it happened in this scenario as opposed to when s**t really hits the fan. Take care and stay safe! 

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I don't see how a leather would be any different than plastic.  Did you mean to say a traditional style helmet?  Because many people have those but they aren't leather.  Many departments are issued though.

Yes sorry! I felt cool thinking this was an awesome story and messed up the most important part. I had a traditional style, now switching to a modern style. Probably the Bullard LTX. Sorry for the confusion!

I think part of the issue here is that you didn't have anything with you to cut yourself free.  Regardless of the style of helmet, if those same wires were tangled around your leg or SCBA you would have still been in the very same situaion if not worse. We train all of our members to carry not only a utility knife but a set of wire cutters as well specifically for that type of situation.

If we are talking about safety, weight, and/or stress on the neck then the traditional helmets lose every time to the smaller "metro" style helmets. But if we are talking about tradition, pride, and the American Fire Service then the tradional ones win and the leathers surpass them. At both of my departments, we wear traditional helmets and some of us even wear leathers for that very reason. If your FD allows you to make a personal choice then it is just that...a personal choice but reagardless of your choice, please get a set of heavy wire cutters and a utility knife and keep them somewhere in your gear where you can get to them with a gloved hand.  Thanks, bro.

There is one part of your story that makes me cringe..... The line where you said "I would have had to swallow my pride and call a Mayday". By the book, you SHOULD have called a mayday as entanglement is an automatic trip. I hope you do realize that by not calling a mayday, you could have set yourself up for a serious issue as your SCBA could also have been entangled.

I'm not going to get on my soapbox .. though I should .. as my time is short to write this post, however, I will say that calling a Mayday should NEVER be a matter of swallowing one's pride. It should be about calling the mayday when your situation falls into one of the parameters, and your situation certainly did.

That is all.

My first impression of this topic is "Why in the Hell aren't you carrying any tools to alleviate an entanglement?"   I carry a knife, a linesman's pliers, and a Fiscars snips just for those types of circumstances.  To get me, or my crew out of that situation of wires, dropped ceilings, or any other shit that may try to tie us up.

Let me echo what Bob said about Maydays.  Too often we let that word PRIDE get us hurt or killed.  I stress in training, and especially in RIT or "Save yourself" training, that we ned to call Mayday as soon as we are in trouble, not when we start dying.  Even if a RIT crew is in place it will still take them time to find you, extricate you, then get you out of the building.

You may find it easier to blame the helmet for your predicament, but the truth is your lack of preparednss almost cost you serious injury or death.  Unless you start carrying tools to assist you in an entanglement this may happen all over again but perhaps wrapped around your scba, your flashlight, your arms or legs.  The sad fact is the tools you need will cost far less than the replacment helmet you bought, and you still need them even with the new helmet.

Your answer to not carrying tools to self-extricate from a simple entanglement problem is to buy a new helmet??? 


Your answer to feeling embarassed is to avoid calling a Mayday when one is clearely indicated?


Getting rid of a traditional helmet is not the problem, nor will a turtle-style helmet shell prevent entanglement problems.  Carry cutting tools, ensure that your company members carry cutting tools, and call the Mayday as soon as it is indicated.


There's also a cost factor - a new helmet will be far more costly than a pair of trauma shears, a Benchmade Rescue Hook, or a pair of wire-cutting pliers - or all three.

I definitely agree with those that have responded before. Replacing a helmet does not make the issue go away. Being prepared and having the tools you need when you need them is the answer. To me the cost of a utility knife, bypass cutters and linemans pliers is well worth it when compared to not going home to my family.

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