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During the service life of firefighters' protective clothing, individual aspects of its performance change due to factors such as thermal exposure. Although there are some standards for the inspection of firefighters' protective clothing, test methods that could be used to completely determine the level of damage and the remaining service life of such clothing have not yet been developed. In order to develop these test methods, it is necessary to understand how individual aspects of the performance of protective clothing deteriorate after exposure to fireground conditions. In this project, specimens consisting of an outer shell, a moisture barrier, and a thermal liner were thermally aged and tested using 20 kW/m2 exposures in a cone calorimeter. Two different outer shell fabrics, one undyed (light brown in color) and one dyed (black), were tested. Changes in the tensile strength of the outer shell resulting from single and multiple exposures were measured. Changes in the color of the outer shell were also measured using digital image analysis. The study demonstrates that multiple exposures to this heat flux level were less destructive than a single exposure of the same total duration. Color measurements showed good potential as a possible nondestructive means of evaluating the condition of the outer shell fabric, as these color measurements could be correlated to the loss in tensile strength of the outer shell. Possible future work to evaluate other aspects of the performance of these materials is discussed.
firefighters' protective clothing, durability, non-destructive tests, color measurement, outer shell, service life, thermal aging, multiple exposures
Dept. of Mechanical Engineering, Univ. of Saskatchewan, Saskatoon, SK
Torvi, David A.
Professor, Dept. of Mechanical Engineering, Univ. of Saskatchewan, Saskatoon, SK