No more rolling up voluminous jacket sleeves, no more tripping over trousers where the crotch hangs mid-thigh or waist bands have to be pulled up around the bra line: For the first time in NSW Rural Fire Service history, uniforms are being made in female sizes.
For the 16,309 female NSW RFS volunteers, it’s a welcome relief to finally have personal protective clothing (PPC) designed for their bodies.
And it’s not only the sizing that has changed, the new material is much lighter, making it much easier for the volunteers to move around.
At Blackheath-Mt Victoria RFS, which has a strong female contingent, the new gear was given a firm thumbs-up.
Brigade president, Sharyn McIntosh, said: “The new uniforms are much lighter, more breathable and faster drying.
“Female sizes and design is a great improvement; they are better fitting and allow for easier movement.
Female sizes and design is a great improvement.Sharyn McIntosh
“The RFS consulted with the members and the results are fantastic. The new women's PPC encourages and recognises the valuable role that women play in the RFS in an operational capacity.”
A NSW RFS spokesman said the “next generation” clothing was introduced in July and includes “male and female specific cuts and sizing”.
He said the final design ”was based on consultations with a wide range of volunteers, member feedback and field trials”.
The new breathable fabric will reduce the occurrence of heat stress or heat exhaustion. It is also lighter, stronger and more durable.
”The new firefighting jackets and pants for females provide a more comfortable fit when undertaking tasks in the field, such as climbing over obstacles.
“The next generation PPC is being issued to female members first and progressively rolled out to existing members.”
The spokesman said the old clothing – which is still usable and meets current standards – was “gender neutral” but the Gazette understands there are many female volunteers who would challenge that claim.
And it appears good news is spreading to the State Emergency Service, which is also looking at female sizing.
“At the direction of the NSW SES Commissioner, the service commenced trialling new female-sized pants for its volunteers, and will be rolling-out the pants as well as female-sized shirts in the coming months,” a spokeswoman said.