Fire has been used as a weapon for a long, long time. Before napalm and Willie Pete, there was Greek fire and boiling oil. Burning arrows could be shot into castles to set roofs on fire, and coastal forts used heated cannonballs to destroy enemy ships. Fire is simple, effective and terrifying. Since explosives came to dominate the battlefield, it’s also ubiquitous; any explosive weapon generates huge amounts of heat. That’s why it’s vital to make sure you’re protected against the effects of fire and flash burns.
In fact flash burns are one of the greatest threats in the typical modern conflict. Improvised explosive devices are increasingly the insurgents’ weapon of choice and these can cause flash injuries at a considerable distance. Whenever there’s an IED threat in theater, some basic precautions should be taken. A lot of that comes down to having the right clothing.
The first priority is to reduce exposed skin as much as possible. That can be uncomfortable in hot climates but there are plenty of sound reasons for keeping covered up. Tactical movement, especially in urban terrain, will net you a nice crop of cuts and grazes if you’re showing a lot of skin. Insect bites can also ruin your day. Protection against burns just seals the deal. Long pants and sleeves rolled down is the way ahead.
You also need to consider your face and hands. Goggles are an essential part of your kit if you’re working from open vehicles; get a good set of ballistic ones and they’ll protect you from flash as well as from minor fragmentation. A shemagh or net scarf over the lower half of your face protects the skin in an explosion, plus it keeps the dust out your nose and mouth during normal routine. As for your hands, gloves are a must have. Leather is generally preferable to synthetic materials as it doesn’t melt; even synthetic materials, like a Thinsulate or Spectra liner, will be much safer if they’re inside a leather shell.
Melting is a real hazard around explosions or fires. There’s a trend recently for field uniforms to contain a lot more synthetic fiber than they used to. Up until the 1990s, some militaries enforced rules about not wearing synthetic fabrics in the field; the British only wanted to see wool or cotton. The reason was that these resist heat a lot better, and there’s no risk of them melting and burning deep into the skin. Unfortunately, they’re also absorbent and slow-drying; so in the interests of performance, more advanced fabrics have slowly taken over. Unfortunately, that brings back the problem of cloth that melts dangerously.
The solution is to opt for flame-retardant gear. Standard issue combat clothing has a degree of fireproofing built in to it, but there’s much better gear available. Propper’s range of FRACU clothing (Fire Resistant Army Combat Uniform) is made from Lenzing FR flame-resistant fabric and also has all the other features you want from a duty uniform. Field jackets and pants are available in a choice of camouflage patterns, as well as plain colors suitable for law enforcement or security operators.
The good news is that modern flame-resistant fabrics are just as comfortable as regular field uniforms, and they’re also practical and durable. If you’re going to be working in a high threat environment, especially if IEDs are a hazard, you should definitely invest in a couple of sets.
Disclaimer: The content in this article is the opinion of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the policies or opinions of US Patriot Tactical.