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HAIX Fire Flash Gamma boots

This entry was posted by on Sunday, 8 January, 2012 at

When fighting fire, having the right equipment is essential. This is true for both the equipment such as hoses, the fire truck and rescue equipment, as well as for personal protective equipment. Reliable and qualitatively good equipment can make the difference between life and death in risky situations.

Footwear might at first glance not be the most important thing: a good protective suit and a self-contained breathing apparatus are very important too. However, sometimes incidents require the fire fighters to stand outside for long times on end in cold and wet conditions. When fighting fire inside a building good footwear is essential to keep the body protected from the heat.

(supplied by one of our readers)

Good footwear should preferably have the following characteristics:

  • Protection against cold and heat, both through the sole and the upper part of the boots;
  • Waterproofness;
  • Cut-resistance for working with chainsaws;
  • Sturdy yet comfortable;
  • Protection against chemicals;
  • Easy to pull on (getting the boots off is less important as the process of pulling them on is often under time stress in case of emergencies, while getting them off is not);
  • Adjustable to everyone’s personal fit;
  • Breathable (a fire smells bad enough already, no need to add sweaty feet to that);

HAIX® is a popular manufacturer of all kinds of technical and tactical footwear. They produce footwear for workers in fire fighting, rescue services, construction, forestry, hunting, military and police.

The volunteer fire brigade in Wageningen, The Netherlands, have used HAIX® for years already. Since 2006, the model Fire Flash® was introduced. In December 2011 the newer model Fire Flash® Gamma was purchased. I myself have used my Fire Flash boots since September 2007, so they were used for approximately 4 years. Even though the boots still met the standards for safe use, they were ready for replacement. Of course, since I am a volunteer fire fighter in a small city, the boots were not used as intensively as a full time fire fighter in a big city might use them. Lifespan of boots will always depend on the intensity of usage and the maintenance (cleaning and polishing regularly will lengthen the lifespan considerably).

There are no major differences between the Fire Flash® and Fire Flash® Gamma models. In appearance they are almost similar, and many of the characteristics are identical. The only difference is that the Gamma has Cut-Resistance Class 2. This means that Kevlar® threads in the boot can resist chainsaw cuts up to 24 m/s, while the Fire Flash® has Class 1 protection (up to 20 m/s). In short, the newer Gamma model is safer when working with chainsaws, even though it is still not advisable to drop a running saw on your feet.

Several other characteristics of both Fire Flash® and Fire Flash® Gamma include:

  • waterproof breathable (5 mg/cm2/h) leather outside;
  • waterproof and breathable 4-layer GORE-TEX® inside;
  • anatomically formed footbed;
  • HAIX® Climate system;
  • protective toe cap with rubber cap;
  • puncture-safe, antistatic and oil/gasoline proof sole which is both heat and cold insulated;
  • Sun Reflect to reduce the heating effect by direct sunlight;
  • HAIX® Lacing system with NOMEX® laces.

If there is an emergency and you need to dress fast, there is no time to tie your laces. Zippers are ideal for that. However, zipper boots are not adjustable to fit your feet perfectly. Both the Fire Flash® and the Fire Flash® Gamma have the HAIX® Lacing system. The HAIX® Lacing system is a pretty nifty thing. It combines the easy entry and exit of a zipper boot with the personal fit of a lace boot. First, you loosen the laces and put on the boot. Zip up. Adjust the laces until the fit is perfect. Done! Now the boot is ready to use with just the zipper. The laces can be adjusted at any time if needed. The laced boots in the HAIX® fire fighting range are fitted exclusively with NOMEX® laces. NOMEX® is nylon-related polymer, similar to KEVLAR®. While NOMEX® is fire resistant, its fibers are not as strong as KEVLAR® fibers. Therefor, NOMEX® can be used for protection from fire while KEVLAR® is used for protection from bullets etc. Race car drivers often wear NOMEX® hoods and suits.

The sole of the boots is quite remarkable as well. Even after using the boots for 4 years, the soles show minimal wear and tear (see Picture). The heat insulation can resist up to 150°C for 30 minutes, and contact heat up to 300°C for 1 minute. The cold insulation can resist temperatures as low as -17°C for 30 minutes. Actually, the entire boot is very well insulated. I have never felt that my feet were getting too hot, even when sitting inside a closed flash-over/backdraft training container where temperatures can easily get up to 200°C. Of course you feel the heat, but it has never been uncomfortable. Also, when standing outside in wintertime, the cold insulation keeps my feet nice and warm, and dry as well.

As with any new pair of shoes, brand new boots can be a bit stiff at first. Wearing them for the first time and having to walk up several flights of stairs was a bit of a challenge. However, I was surprised at how fast the new boots seemed to adapt to my feet and loosened up. Already after wearing them a few times and taking them off and putting them back on the boots were much more supple.

A week ago, after a storm, my colleagues and I had to respond to some calls about trees that had fallen down on roads and in one case on top of a house. After having been on my feet for five hours to take care of the incidents, my feet were absolutely fine. The boots are very comfy to wear, even if they are a bit bulky.

Many of the HAIX® fire boots share the following characteristic: they’re sturdy. The boots need to be capable of dealing with bad weather conditions, dropping heaving things on them, kicking inanimate objects (such as doors), getting all kinds of goo on them (such as oil, mud, and animal faeces which are, unfortunately, not uncommon).

The Fire Flash® Gamma delivers on all points.
Having used my new Fire Flash® Gamma boots for around a month now, I can say that I am really satisfied with them. After the initial loosening up, the fit is really comfortable. I have not yet used the Fire Flash Gamma in fire situations, but I suppose they deliver what they promise in that department as well. All in all, I think the new Fire Flash® Gamma boots are at least equal to my old Fire Flash® boots. I expect nothing less than that from HAIX® boots.

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