Ryan Pennington is a firefighter out of Charleston, WV. He has served a variety of roles over the course of his 25 year career. These include firefighter, Fire Captain, instructor, trainer, author and consultant. Ryan had a blog and podcast called “Views From The Jumpseat” where he would describe some of the daily challenges he experienced sitting in the jumpseat of a fire engine.
Ryan currently works at a larger career fire department and is a subject matter expert in hoarder firefighting. Whether dealing with the large number of structure fires out in WV or the unpredictable nature of hoarder homes, Ryan has come to learn the value of having equipment that allows him to work safer, faster and smarter.
FoxFury met Ryan back in 2010, which was halfway between now and when Ryan’s fire career started. He was covering the launch of FoxFury’s new Breakthrough right angle flashlight for Firehouse.com. At the time, Ryan had already owned one of FoxFury’s helmet lights. Over the years, he has taken FoxFury lighting tools to the limit and we’ve done torture testing videos with him in the past.
With Ryan averaging 50 structure fires and 10 training burns per year at his department, he has seen products pushed to their limits and in some cases reach their failure points. He’s also experienced some of the design frustrations with having to use a product when it's cold, wet and chaotic.
His department covers an area of over 30 square miles, which includes rivers and mountains. His department handles Fire, Rescue and EMS calls and responds in remote areas, vehicle accidents and urban areas. This puts him in situations where he has to respond to critical emergencies in areas with little to no ambient lighting.
Ryan was intrigued with the idea of panoramic lighting but did not have any experience with these lighting tools until he purchased a FoxFury Command Series helmet light 2009. It has helped him with post-fire overhaul and with utilizing tools and equipment in a variety of rescue and medical calls. One of those calls was the extrication of an elderly person where operating hands-free was essential so that life-saving equipment could be utilized to cut the person out of the vehicle.
Whether working on gunshot wounds, controlling airways, doing overhaul or instructing at training burns, the flood lighting from the helmet lights have helped him work effectively.
One thing we learned from Ryan over the years is that depending on the environment, some lights perform better than others. In Ryan’s case, repeated exposure to high heat made the Discover Tilt helmet light a better fit than the Command.
We’ve asked Ryan to use and abuse our helmet lights over the years so he is on helmet light #5 in 13 years. These lights are subject to temperatures of 375 degrees (excluding radiant heat) pretty consistently on fires and some of these training burns go for a while. Two of Ryan’s lights hang in FoxFury’s Wall of Flame and the Ryan’s newest Discover light is still being broken in with 50 structure fires under its belt.
Gloves and Tools
In the time that we’ve known Ryan, he started working on Vanguard Safety Wear on structure gloves. The opportunity arose in 2015 because Ryan kept seeing firefighters barehanded at scenes. They knew that gloves would provide them safety but the rigidity and difficulty with fine motor movements caused firefighters to forgo using them all together in many basic fireground functions.
In designing gloves that better fit the needs of firefighters, Vanguard made speed, dexterity and functionality the priority. They started displaying different glove models at events and would get better feedback.
Ryan has been a Beta tester over the years for Vanguard and has used the MK-1 and Ultra gloves for the past 2 years. The gloves have been used in a variety of calls and have been through 100 structure fires and 20 training burns.
Ryan’s favorite time that he used these Vanguard gloves was when they beat out a rival engine company and were able to put on their helmets and face shields faster. How much faster? 60 seconds. It may not sound like much but they only have 2 to 4 minutes when they arrive to command level strategic decisions. Those are 60 precious seconds more they had to work with to get hose lines, their nozzles and knock down the fire.
Vanguard has been busy at work making improvements and new additions to their lineup.
Phenix Fire Helmets
Being a typical firefighter, Ryan views the fire helmet as a badge of honor and a valuable life-saving tool...and an awesome display piece for when he retires from the fire service. He had been wanting a leather helmet for a long time and finally broke down and purchased one 3 years ago.
His choice…the Phenix TL-2. For a man from WV, this particular helmet from a CA based company is an intriguing decision.
While not used in training burns, the Phenix helmet has been used on over 120 structure fires. He was the first person in his department to get a Phenix and now another 20 of his fellow firefighters in the department all use Phenix.
The helmet is cleaned regularly after structure fires and one of Ryan’s favorite parts of the helmet is that you can unclip the support system and clean the liner. Ryan has a firefighter friend who developed skin cancer on his forehead, which is the reason why Ryan so diligently cleans the lines after fires.
His department had a close call recently. Therefore, Ryan’s favorite memory of this helmet is that it helped him (and others) rescue his fellow firefighter and allowed everyone in the department to go home that day.