These were the most common fire glove in use—at least in our
area, when I joined the fire department.
I’ve heard a few call them red balls, but they were really more orange
than red, a flexible plastic coated material that made them water proof, and if
worn with cloth liner gloves, warm in the winter. The coating was also their worst
characteristic, as it could and did melt in fires, and resulted in some nasty
burns. They didn’t smell great or at
least your hands didn’t after wearing them for a while. The sweat build up was absorbed by the inner
layer and never went away. They were in
the process of being replaced with heavy lined cowhide gloves that gave better
protection from fire, but soaked through quickly—their downside.
My department resolved this inherent conflict by issuing
everyone a pair of each; fireballs and the new leather gloves. We wore the leathers for the fire attack and
the fireballs for cleaning up, rolling and loading hose, and the ever
important washing of the rigs when we returned.
I still see a pair around once in a while, inevitably used now only for
this last purpose.
Fireballs and three-quarter boots; tools of the old
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