Collectible Firefighting & Rescue Helmets
Collecting firefighter and rescue helmets helps preserve the history of American firefighters. There are many interesting varieties and options to choose from. Originally used for safety and protection, they are now collected worldwide.What types of collectible fire helmets are available?
Fire helmets were adopted in the mid-1700s. Materials and styles changed over time. Many helmets have figures of birds, snakes, and other animals, or shields on them. The decorations on a fire helmet may indicate the fire brigade, town, or community, and perhaps the state flower or symbol.
- Emblems or embellishments: Some fire helmets were decorated by the wearer. Some were decorated at the time of production. A wide range of stickers, shields, badges, or animals can be found. Some even had gold, silver, or jewels.
- Parade helmets: Parade fire helmets were ornate and are often only found as well used for collectible purposes. Those in good condition are a rare and valuable treasure because they were designed to be used only once.
- Special presentation helmets: These were given for retirement or promotions. They may have dates, names, locations, or other unique information inscribed on them.
- Assorted colors: Different colors of a fire helmet denote a specific rank. The main colors used are black, yellow, red, white, or brown.
Different regions and time periods used various materials for their safety helmets. Each material had its benefits.
- Leather: Leather is believed to be the first material used for firefighter helmets. Often the leather was stiffened with wire. Leather is still used in some locations.
- Aluminum: Aluminum fire helmets were introduced later and are rarer. Aluminum conducted heat and electricity too well. The helmets would get hot easily and were vulnerable for firemen around exposed wires.
- Plastic: This material is light and does not conduct energy well. Most helmets are made from some form of plastic or synthetic material.
- Fabric: Fabrics such as wool and paper-mache were also used to make helmets. These helmets denoted rank rather than giving the firefighter any protection.
Different countries or regions used different colors. In the United States, the following color ranking typically applied.
- White: White was used for the chief firefighter or platoon chief.
- Red: Deputies, officers, or captains usually wore red fire helmets.
- Blue: Blue was used for lieutenants or EMS. personnel.
- Yellow: This color was common as it was used for lieutenants and regular firefighters.
- Black: Some areas also used black for regular firefighters. If the fire helmet has no number, the fireman did not finish training.
- Green: Green was often for safety personnel or other non-firefighter personnel.