Bravest helmet headache: Angry over $100 fee to keep ‘badge of honor’

By Sally Goldenberg and Kevin Sheehan New York Post

Firefighters are blazing mad over a new requirement that they turn in their beloved helmets after 10 years as the FDNY upgrades the equipment — or pay $100 to keep the mementos.

The Bravest tore into the new city policy, which requires they get new helmets once a decade for safety reasons.

The city picks up the tab and confiscates the old headgear, but many firefighters said they should be allowed to keep their helmets for free.

“Your helmet isn’t just your piece of safety equipment. It’s a badge of honor,” said a firefighter from Squad 288 in Maspeth, Queens. “It shows how many fires you’ve been to. Look at the soot on my helmet.”

Another member of the Bravest said he begrudgingly paid the city $100 to keep his helmet — which he wore when he responded to the 9/11 terror attacks.

“It’s the helmet that guys wore on the pile,” he said. “Everything else is gone from there. When you’re a fireman your helmet is who you are. With all the guys that are dying now with lung cancer, you figure the least they would do is let you keep the helmet you wore that day.”

The FDNY recently implemented the National Fire Protection Association’s policy that it change gear every 10 years to keep up with new safety standards. It instituted the option to buy back helmets as a courtesy to members of the force.

Firefighters on the force more than 20 years have to pay only $50, and 30-year veterans can keep their helmets free of charge.

“We’ve got to make sure all firefighters’ personal protective equipment is off line [after 10 years], and we can’t do that if they’re laying around the firehouse,” FDNY spokesman Jim Long said.

Firefighters used to buy their own helmets and uniforms, but in 1994, the city agreed to provide the 11,000 members the protective gear.

Firefighters whose helmets are 10 years old have until Nov. 6 to return them. Long said the entire stock of headgear would be changed within five years.

One fire official who purchased his first helmet more than 40 years ago said, “They viewed that helmet as a badge of their career. You look at a helmet and you say this guy’s been in a war.”

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