Why the Right Gloves Are Crucial for Firefighters

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Firefighting gloves are a complex piece of gear. They must protect wearers from high temperatures, sharp objects, chemicals and more while offering dexterity and comfort. Many elements of firefighting gloves will determine their efficacy, from the material used to appropriate sizing. Understanding firefighter hand protection is crucial in any firefighting environment.

What Are Firefighting Gloves?

Firefighting gloves are a piece of personal protective equipment used to prevent burns, abrasions and other hazards. These gloves come in several varieties and typically follow the National Fire Protection Agency's strict design and protection standards. Manufacturers must rigorously test gloves through an independent third party to comply with NFPA standards, which help fire departments buy trustworthy gloves that meet safety demands.

A firefighter's job includes many roles, so firefighting gloves typically fall under one of three categories.

  1. Structural gloves: These gloves offer protection from the hazards of firefighting environments, like high heat, flashovers, backdrafts, hot steam and sharp objects. Structural firefighting gloves strike a balance between flexibility and thermal protection.
  2. Extrication and rescue gloves: Gloves designed for extrication and rescue provide more support for working with motor vehicle accidents and collapsed buildings, including urban search and rescue operations. They prioritize grip and dexterity, allowing firefighters to hold and manipulate tools while avoiding punctures, cuts and abrasions from materials such as shrapnel. These gloves also protect their wearers from hazardous materials common in emergency settings, like fuel, battery acid and bodily fluids.
  3. Wildland gloves: Fighting wildfires involves more extreme heat than other fires, so these gloves emphasize protection from fire and ambient temperatures. They're usually lighter and more breathable while maintaining dexterity for using unique tools in this sector.

Across these applications, firefighting gloves often use leather or textiles, with specialized linings for thermal protection, cut resistance, water resistance and other features.

Essential Elements of Firefighting Gloves

Firefighting gloves' features and standards address the following critical elements to meet these diverse demands.

Heat Protection

Naturally, firefighting gloves must offer appropriate thermal protection. More protective gloves are usually larger and stiffer due to additional materials and space for insulation. Some materials that contribute to heat protection include leather, Kevlar and Nomex. Even the stitching resists degradation at high temperatures.

If a firefighter's jacket slips, it might leave a gap, creating a significant risk of exposure to high heat. Extended gauntlets can help fill this space and offer extra protection.

Puncture, Water, Chemical and Pathogen Resistance

Gloves also use various protective features for other hazards to maintain a firefighter's hand protection. Cut-resistant panels in the palm, side and fingers can help prevent punctures, abrasions and cuts, while protective linings can block water, chemicals and pathogens from reaching the wearer's skin.

Wounds, cuts, bleeding and bruising accounted for 13% of injuries on firegrounds in 2022. Fire or chemical burns and thermal stress followed  at 9% and 7%, respectively. Protective features help mitigate these risks on the job.


These thick gloves sometimes make hand movements challenging, but firefighters must maintain enough agility to grip items securely, such as when using tools or pressing radio buttons. The material's flexibility and texture impact dexterity, and manufacturers often add surface texture to the glove to improve grip.

Firefighter gloves require a balance between heat protection and finesse, and a good fit is vital. A loose glove can impede aptitude, while a too-tight glove can decrease thermal protection by compressing the material and reducing insulation.

Comfortable Donning and Doffing

Putting gloves on and taking them off is a balancing act. Easy donning and doffing can indicate a looser fit, which would affect the firefighter's grip. But if the glove is snug when worn, it might be harder to don and doff, especially in wet conditions.

Some firefighters even opt for larger gloves to simplify putting them on and taking them off in emergencies. Manufacturers must consider ease of use during design. You can usually achieve easier donning and doffing by looking for gloves with a properly sized opening and avoiding fuzzy, soft liners.


Sweat buildup inside the gloves can affect grip, comfort and the wearer's ability to maintain safe body temperatures. Breathable materials can help firefighters avoid trapping sweat under their gloves.

Firefighter Glove Selection and Fit

Choosing suitable gloves will depend on your needs and sizing. NFPA 1971 simplifies the process by requiring compliant structural PPE to meet specific performance levels. The NFPA's latest guidelines, adopted in 2018, added requirements for pathogen resistance, a water barrier and more protection on the back of the hand. Wildland and technical rescue gloves fall under NFPA 1977 and NFPA 1951, respectively.

The guidelines also updated the sizing system with more precise measurements. The new sizes resemble the military scale based on finger length and hand width. Instead of vague sizes like small and large, they use numerical sizes that correspond with the index finger's length in millimeters. They also have normal, wide and extra-wide options.

Read more about sizing structural firefighting gloves to ensure a proper fit. Accurate sizing is crucial, affecting the firefighter's ability to interact with the environment and stay safe. If gloves are too small, the risk of exposing the gloves' wristlets and the wearer's skin is higher. Small sizes reduce thermal protection, too. Large gloves are also problematic, as they offer poor grip and may lead to wearers taking gloves off entirely.

How to Care for Firefighting Gloves

Like other types of PPE, thorough care is essential for your gloves' longevity and performance. Follow protocols according to the manufacturer and NFPA 1851, which outlines the selection, inspection, cleaning and other aspects of caring for PPE. Most gear will need inspections and thorough cleaning at least every six months or after a fire. Bunker Gear Specialists offers comprehensive glove cleaning services if you're looking to have your gloves cleaned by professionals.

You can sometimes wash gloves in appropriate washing machines, but others require hand-washing. Firefighting gloves usually need air-drying. Regular inspections are also crucial in caring for firefighting gloves.

Find the Right Gloves With Bunker Gear Specialists

Gloves are often the only barrier between a firefighter's skin and highly hazardous materials or temperatures. Reliable, effective firefighting gloves are crucial to every fire department.

At Bunker Gear Specialists, we make it easy to find quality firefighter equipment and safety supplies. We sell structural and extrication gloves from trusted brands like HexArmor, INNOTEX and Dragon Fire. We can also help keep your gloves in top shape with our gear cleaning and testing services.

Reach out today to talk to a pro about finding the correct gloves for your work or learn more about our services.