Well, it looks like the fire service objections to the high visibility vest rules will be sustained by the feds. The Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) rule 634 notice of final rule published in June 2009 apparently will acquiese to fire service cries of foul, allowing exemption from the need to wear hi-vis vests when engaging in fire suppression activities on roadways where the requirement for hi-vis vests would potentially endanger firefighters. The final rule should be published before the end of calendar 2009. We hope. See the feds comments and proceedings here.
Now for my thoughts. Sure, a vest could melt or pyrolize, emitting cyanide and/or other toxic gases. And yes, in the case of a raging inferno, we might be compelled to close the roadway to civilian traffic, essentially eliminating the danger from some errant vehicle mowing down an innocent member. But let's be real. Real world, that is. I've carried my high-vis vest in the pocket of my bunker pants now for three years. When I'm in the road, I put it on. It's never melted at a vehicle fire yet and if it did, you bet your bipee I'd have my BA on. Maybe you close the roadway - I don't. Keeping traffic moving, in my mind, lowers risk. Less gawkers, less congestion, more opportunity for the public I serve to see me in action as they pass by, less time I spend restoring normalcy. And heck, read the NIOSH reports - fire apparatus mows down as many firefighters (maybe more) than crazed civilians do.
I'll wear the vest. And not the $80 special flame proof version some entrepreneur dreamed up to pad their wallet. The $15 one size fits all version works for me. Go figure. If your feet are on the street, the vest should be on your chest. Simple. Let move on.