HILLSBOROUGH COUNTY, Fla. — For the first time in years, firefighters in Hillsborough County have all new gear.

  • Gear cost around $3,200 per firefighter
  • Upgrading gear a priority for county for years
  • More Hillsborough County stories

The new gear is designed to fit firefighters better than ever.

Putting on her new gear, Capt. Anita Blackmon feels like a whole new firefighter, especially after 22 years of wearing the same old gear that never fit right.

“We got old ‘hand-me-downs’ from the shelf. I’m a small female and all of my stuff was super big and I’d fumble around,” Blackmon said.

Now she and more than 1,000 other Hillsborough County firefighters have new bunker gear that is a much better fit.

“The pants fit you better. The arms are more flexible. It’s the best thing,” Blackmon said.

The new fit is a huge help for Adam Heyward, the former Tampa Bay Buccaneer turned firefighter, who traded his football uniform in for a fire one.

“I can do whatever I need to do now,” Heyward. “I can crawl around and my knees are protected. Before it wasn’t like that. The pants would hike all the way up and I was trying to pull them down.”

The firefighters say it’s lighter than anything they’ve ever used before. That’s especially the case when it gets wet, which they say is a huge deal when they’re responding to a fire.

“It’s a crucial part of our job,” said Deputy Chief Jason Dougherty. “It’s life safety. It’s what keeps our firefighters safe. And allow them to perform the best they can.”

The gear is about $3,200 each. It’s been a priority for Hillsborough County leaders over the past few years to get their firefighters taken care of.

“It’s going to help me do the job longer. I know that,” Blackmon said.