The Wrong Boots

It’s not like I didn’t know. 

Beside the fact that our standards for protective fire gear (including boots) are very clear, I’d actually had trouble once before.  When I was taking a fire training course in South Carolina, I was mopping up the remains of a controlled burn when I noticed that my feet were getting really warm.  Looking down, I realized that the heat from the smoldering pine needles I was walking through was melting the soles of my boots.  That was my first lesson in why wearing the right boots (with Vibram soles, for example) is important.

Despite my previous experience, when I arrived at the aftermath of the big wildfire on the Niobrara River a couple weeks ago, I hopped out of the truck, donned my Nomex shirt, helmet, and leather gloves, and went to work.  …I should have changed boots.  About 20 minutes later, I was spraying water on some hot coals when I noticed that the front of the sole on my left boot was flapping.  That’s odd, I thought – these boots aren’t that old… 

Within about two minutes, the sole of my left boot had come off completely, and the right one was gone by the time I hobbled out of the hot spot I was mopping up.  Apparently, the adhesive that held the soles on my boots wasn’t designed for the kind of heat I had just been standing in.

The remains of my boots. I never did find the other sole.

I walked gingerly back to the truck and got the boots I should have been wearing in the first place.  Anybody want to buy some used boots?

9 thoughts on “The Wrong Boots

  1. Thanks for sharing this. Some folks believe that some safety regulations/equipment are not necessary or overly burdensome. The results in this instance, other then losing a pair of shoes, could have been much worse.

  2. White’s Boots are good.

    I’m trying a pair of Thorogood Wildland boots.

    The high price of high quality fire boots is cheap compared to burns on your feet.

  3. My daughter’s soles melted apart when she marched in the Memorial Day parade in Washington DC last year. It was over 100F heat index and the parade was 3 miles long. They had been on the blacktop for almost 3 hours. Didn’t quite believe shoes would do this, but I guess it’s right. Hopefully you will get new boots. Sit these on a fencepost.

  4. The one thing that always makes me nervous when I am on a Rx burn, is seeing people wear cowboy boots. The majority of mass-produced cowboy boots today have laminated soles and they’ll flop right off in low-moderate intensity burns.


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