Firefighter Gear Repurposed for a Great Cause

This July 4 and always, there's a cool way to honor our bravest and help others (and ourselves), too

by John Cylc | Updated 29 Jun 2017 at 1:11 PM

When we celebrate Independence Day, we celebrate our freedom — as well as those who helped win our freedom for us.

For patriotic Americans, July Fourth is also a time to celebrate those who protect us and keep us free. There are soldiers stationed all around the world, separated from their families, who are on guard as we speak. Domestically, we have many law enforcement personnel spending time out of their homes and away from their loved ones to keep us safe in our cities, towns and villages.

It's easy to remember to celebrate those in green and those in blue — but we must not forget those in "red" as well. I'm talking about firefighters and other emergency responders.

As we sadly know from the events of Sept. 11, firefighters are just as willing to lay down their lives to keep us safe, as are soldiers and police officers, every day of the year.

And so it's worth calling attention to a business started by the wife of one of these "men in red."

As with many successful businesses, The Original Firefighter Turnout Bags (FFTOB) began with a great idea in a normal situation. Niki Rasor's husband, a firefighter in San Diego, asked her to remove a pocket from his turnout coat.

A turnout coat is part of the standard-issue gear for firefighters across the country. It is the iconic image of pants and jacket that people picture in their minds when they think of firefighters. The trousers and boots are traditionally kept by the firefighter's bunk at the fire station. They are set up in such a way that the pants are "turned out" so that the firefighter can put them on quickly. The materials are primarily made of an outer shell, a thermal insulated layer, and a thermal and moisture barrier.

Niki Rasor removed the pocket and decided to start a small project. She took some of her husband's old suspenders and attached them to the pocket. The mother of four then stitched the backside and made it into a small bag. With that bit of creativity, she suddenly had a business.

Products for an active life — that also honor others (photo credit: firefighterturnoutbag.com)

Other people saw the husband's bag and asked where they, too, could get something like that. So she began making them in her garage. Niki Rasor soon started designing different types of products. Initially she made custom bags, but recently started making the "Probie" line — named for fire trainees under probation. With this new line of bags, wait time for a FFTOB product is cut from 12 weeks to 3 weeks.

"This is a very precious thing to these firefighters," she told The San Diego Tribune. "It's their second skin that's been keeping them safe all these years. It's like a trophy, and they want to memorialize it."

As The Original Firefighter Turnout Bags (which is based in California) was growing, Rasor learned that fire departments all across the country were forced to store old gear — or throw it in landfills. So she started buying the old gear directly from departments or individuals.

She knew the dedication, the commitment and sacrifice required for the job — and she wanted to honor it.

A sturdy, useful and unique backpack (photo credit: firefighterturnoutbag.com)

Now the gear has become symbolic and sentimental to some individuals who wear it. With that in mind, FFOTB gives customers the option to send their own turnout gear in to be made into one of their bags. Instead of disposing of the coats and pants, or leaving it folded up in a box, firefighters can repurpose these materials and keep something that is dear to them.

As the wife of a firefighter and someone who deals with others in uniform on a constant basis, Niki Rasor understands what these public servants and their families go through. With that in mind, The Original Firefighter Turnout Bags donates to the following organizations:

  • FirefighterAid
  • The Widows, Orphans & Disabled Fireman's Fund
  • StationKid

So this Independence Day weekend and on the holiday itself on Tuesday, as we barbecue, watch fireworks and listen to the services honoring those who defend and protect our freedom every day, we can't forget that it's not just people in Afghanistan, South Korea or other places around the world fighting and working for us. It's not just people who carry guns. It's also sweaty, soot-covered individuals in our own town who risk their lives, sometimes daily.

Related: Community Firefighters Never Let Us Down

If there's a firefighter in your family or circle of friends — consider buying him or her a gift from www.firefighterturnoutbag.com. It's a gift that shows you care. You can feel good knowing that some of what you paid will also go to help some good charities.

John Cylc is an eight-year U.S. Army veteran and lives with his family in eastern Tennessee. His primary advocacy is promoting and protecting Second Amendment rights.

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