Fire Dept.Knife

Oct 5, 1998
A Fire Dept.friend of mine was looking for a do it all type knife for use on the job to attach to his fire gear and liked the look of my Cold Steel "Gunsite" and picked himself up one today. Only now we wonder if that was a good choice...In responding to a fire last week and his face shield which is rated at very high temp. became so hot that the shield became distorted. Question is...Will the CS Zytel(Or any for that matter )hold up to the heat, Will it melt? This knife will be attatched to the outside of his gear. We have thought about maybe a SS Spyderco Rescue, but he wants the size and strength of the CS. Any other possibilities?

If you will call Patrick Kelly at Spyderco 1-800-525-7770, he can tell you exactly what you need to know.


A man doesn't automatically get my respect, he has to get down in the dirt and beg for it.

I was firefighter in New Jersey for a while, and while I did not carry a knife on the outside of my gear I did know several people who carried fixed blades. The reason being that they were stronger, bigger, and did not have plastic handles. I did carry one on the turnout gear because the majority of the time that a knife was needed was at car accidents and the like, and at those kinds of calls the knife clipped to my pocket was available. The heat issue is really a tough one on anything that is exposed in a fire, not to mention the corosive gases that the metal will be exposed to. So I would say that a folding knife really is not all that great a choice. And with the protective gloves on it might not be too easy to open one in a consistant way. Anyhow sorry that this reply has been sort of rambling, but in the end I would go with an inexpensive...replacable fixed blade.
If your wearing gloves while in a fire, you might want to look at some of the Fixed blade knifes that are produced without handles, That way you wont have to worry about the handles melting. Columbia River makes some folders without handle that look pretty good too. Hope this helps!!
Thanks for the reply guys! Going with a fixed blade sounds like it would be a better choice,He could use it for prying also if the situation would call for it. Think I'll also recommend the Spec Plus series.

I personally would not recommend knives from Spec Plus. Good knives butthe Kraton handle will melt right off when its first exposed to fire. Plus the sheath will probably start on fire too. Another thing to worry about is ruining the temper on you knife. I would look for something in a tool steel. steel handle and some kind of sheat that won't melt or start on fire. Kydex might even melt and fall apart depending on how hot you get it. It might just be a good idea to make a pouch sheath out of the same stuff that his protective gear is made of.

Hope some of this helps.

I agree about the fixed blades,
look at Randalls web site
and check out the non-catalogue models.
They have a fireman special knife. Its not to big and you can get it for $215(I'm not sure what price range your friend is willing
to spend) for the standard model. Its a 1/4" thick of stainless(I'm sure that it can be had in tool steel if you asked). I know many of pilots that carry one(model 15)and in a life or death situation, it's one less thing to worry about. Be careful about metal handles though. Anyone know what the temp rating is of micarta? I know those are my opinions and what is said about them(opinions), so good luck in helping your friend find himself a good knife.

[This message has been edited by prigger (edited 01 March 1999).]
How about Mad Dog Knives? I know the sheath is kydex, but you might be able to get one of the same material as the grip. I know the MDK are very stout. Lots of dedicated fans in Special Operations. Try Phil at he has several lines that he carries and is having a knife made to his specs. I have a brother that is a Firefighter (I tell him a few points higher and he could have been a cop! Brotherly love in action) and I gave him a Spyderco Rescue he carries daily..

[This message has been edited by copfish (edited 28 February 1999).]
A Mad Dog knife WILL withstand anything a protected human can deal with. As a test, Hilton Yam drenched an ATAK grip in gasoline and lit it; five minutes or so of burn didn't affect it. The sheath is another matter, Kydex starts to go limp in the steam from a teakettle spout.

Kevin probably could make a sheath out of that grip material. Might be pricey as hell though...he's a materials scientist, so he might be able to thunk up something else.

Leather ain't gonna cut it. Nomex cloth epoxied into something resembling fiberglas maybe? Or...aren't there some oddball higher-temp Kydex formula variants out there, not commonly used in sheathmaking but...for a fireman, might be a godsend?

Check with Kevin, or perhaps Scott Evans of Edgeworks might know something:

One thing about a Mad Dog: the toughness of the knife itself is just completely out there. One test recently performed showed that an untrained cop with an ATAK 7" Mad Dog could punch a rectangular hole in the roof of a crashed car big enough to haul the victim out, and doing so was *faster* than waiting for a Jaws Of Life crew to come out and do the extrication. Understand here, that assumes the knife has a "head start" of around 10 minutes or so because it was presumed to be "on scene" either carried by the officer or in his trunk.

If I was in a fire and needed to rip through sheetmetal in a big hurry, there's nothing I'd rather have with me. The ATAK is probably the best model and possibly the toughest single-edge utility knife ever made, period.

Jim March
Thanks for all the good advice, I printed it out and will give it to him tomorrow at work, will let you know what he decided!


At what point does it become useless, check the tempreture specs of the steel. Many standard steels are tempered in the 600F range, and pretty much anything a fireman's going to work with is that hot. If you have the budget, look at something in a High Speed Steel(HSS), or non-steel(Talonite/Stellite...) They are much less succeptable to loosing their temper under 1000F, (Talonite is not reccomended for continuous use above 2000F, but neither are people!)
Just my rambling thoughts

My sheep has seven gall bladders, that makes me King of the Universe!
For a sheath, leather does take its sweet time catching fire and burning, making it a favorite material for work aprons around flying sparks. Wet leather is even slower to catch fire.

What about an old-fashioned "Kabar"?

I think James Mattis might be on to something. I remember quite vividly a tour of the local fire house, when I was a Boy Scout. They showed us a traditional fireman's helmet. You know what it was made of? Leather. Leather will burn if you hold it directly in a flame, but it won't melt.

David Rock
Jim that cutting demo does not show any great toughness. I have done that with a cheap ($35) 440A stainless Bolo. Even cheap knife steel is a good deal harder and tougher than the mild steel used in the car. You are simply not going to break off or otherwise do gross damage to any steel knife that's 1/4" thick by chopping at something that soft (even if it was harder the most you would do is notch the blade).

A sign of more than average toughness would be to see if an ATAK or similar could withstand lateral prying strain focused at the edge. Why the edge? Because the MD's are not uniformly tempered they are much weaker at the edge than at the spine. A busse BM does not have this characteristic for example as its temper is uniform.

And yeah there are many actual field uses for this type of strain. An example is break cutting of wood. Chop the knife hard into a piece of wood and press down on the handle hard to break the wood out. This places a lot of stress along the weakest point of the knife (the edge) and is a much harder test than doing a pull up or similar where the soft spine can support the strain. It is also used as a way to split things when you can't force much of the knife into the material so you just jam the edge in and twist on the handle to the side to split it.

Note, these types of cutting are quite stressful on a knife and are quite likely to break knives unless they are extreemly tough. As an example, I recently got a new small utility blade from Mel Sorg so I decided to break my current knife (one more data point for future reference) as Mel's outperformed it in every manner. Now this was a knife that was 1/8" thick with a shallow sabre grind. It had seen a lot of heavy use including extreem assisted chopping (using a mallet to drive it through tree roots), and serving as a throwing knife when I was bored (it easily survived being smacked sideways off of wood thrown at full force). It cracked off quite easily trying to break out a piece of wood without even being set in by hitting the spine.

To answer the original question why not try one of the all stainless spyderco knives.

As for fixed blade sheaths that are heat resistant. Why not simply make a form fitted sheath out of mild steel and envelope it on the outside and inside with a flame retardant material (like that rope stuff you see on the inside of woodstoves doors).

He might try the Intrepid by Buck based on the Kit Carson design...

Bull tough, and if the handle is not tough enough, find a local maker to take the standard handle off and replace it with something in the G series of plastics, like G-10 or G-11 or call up a local dealer of plastics and ask them for what they think would be best given the conditions....

I have a soft spot in my heart for Fire fighters as my father has been a Volunteer Firefighter for better then 40 years now. For 20 of those years he was head of the NJ Gloucester County Fireman's Association. He is now currently involved with the Gloucester County Fire Training program and runs the fire simulator. My father tells me that in the fire simulator they train in temperatures up to 650 degrees. There is a safety mechanism where the entire system shuts down at 700 degrees. However, in an actual fire temperatures can reach 1000 degrees at which point all of the fire protection gear is at risk of failing and a retreat from the structure should be made quickly. All of that is a factor if a firefighter is looking for gear that will attach to the outside of the Fire coat and be directly exposed the heat. If it is under the coat and temperatures are high enough to deform the Kydex then "you have bigger problems" as my dad would say, "then soft Kydex".

The Heat deflection (that is the temperature at which a material can continuously deflect heat with out burning or deforming) for Kydex is around 175 degrees at a .125" thickness. Another factor is absorption rate (how fast the material heats up). The thicker the Kydex is the longer it can withstand heat above its Heat Deflection threshold.

I have been working with three new materials; and will make announcements some time this quarter in-depth as to the advantages(so you are hearing it first on Blade Forums). These materials significantly out perform Kydex. Particularly in the area of heat deflection and rate of heat absorption. All three materials are fiber reinforced, all three are lighter in weight, all three are stronger, and all three take the heat. The Materials are more difficult to work with then Kydex but absolutely out perform Kydex for tactical applications. A few months from now I will be offering a limited run of the new materials in our "All-way" Sheaths for broader field evaluations and customer feed back. I also would be happy to talk with a few firefighters on the development and testing of fire-fighting specific gear (i.e. rescue knife sheaths or whatever). Anyway you look at it the new materials will advance our industry and the "genuine operator's" expectation of performance in their gear.

Will keep you posted.