Share your Cairns Helmet Stories and Photos!

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Matthew R. Franklin, MA

Matthew R. Franklin, MA Collector

When I was growing up I had a neighbor who was a member of the FDNY, and I was always fascinated with his Cairns New Yorker, and the craftsmanship that went into it. I remember him showing me how it was custom fit to his head. In any case, I started collecting Cairns helmets a few years ago, and I recently purchased my second model 650 Seamless helmet. Since this model helmet is fairly rare (they were only made from about 1947 until the mid to late 1950s), I wanted to share it with others who might find it interesting.

Jim K. Throop, PA

Jim K. Throop, PA Wm. Walker Hose Co.

I have a been wearing Cairns helmets all my career. I have to say that Cairns/MSA produces the best helmets in the fire service. I currently will only wear a Cairns Leather helmet, unless I am teaching a burn class then it either my 360 or 660. The picture shows just a sampling of the Cairns helmets that I currently wear and will continue to wear as long as I can. Thanks for making such a great and safe product.

Jeffery R. Kannapolis, NC

As a kid growing up there was nothing in this world I wanted more then to be a firefighter. From the start there was no hope for me being anything other then a firefighter because I was raised in it. While other 5,6,and 7 year old kids were climbing out of bed to watch their favoite saturday morning cartoons, yeah but not me I was up and ready to go to the fire department with my dad.I would help do truck checks, sweep the bays,wash the trucks, roll hose, anything that had to do with being a firefighter.The first fire helmet I ever put on my head was a Cairns 660,my dad still has the picture somewhere as he often reminds me of those day but that little boy grew up and became of age to join the fire service as Jr firefighter at the age of 16. I still remember that night like it was last night as the officer over PPE started chunking bunker gear boots gloves hoods saying try this on and then he tossed out a box with a helmet in it. It was a brand new still in the plastic 1010 the guys said it looked as if I had unwapped a gold nugget so now it off to classes getting certified before reaching the age of 18 so by this time I have graduated high school in 2003 and recived my state FF certs for all my hard work for christmas my dad rewarded me with a brand new N6A Sam Houston that I still wear today at my career department this fine hand crafted helmet has saved my head more then once and is now about to be a shelf piece but all my years in an around the fire service Cairns by far makes the best fire helmets and thank you for what yall do.

brodrick e. smithland, KY

I am currently a rookie firefighter for Smithland fire and rescue and joined in april of 2012 and will continue to serve my comunity and my brother firefighters in the never ending struggle of life and death for many years to come. I currently wear a carins 660c metro but is getting very worn and has been in service since 2007 when it was new.

Richard B. Saint Charles, MI

During a training session, a master stream appliance failed. The failure of the deck gun caused large pieces of shrapnel to fly in many different directions. The person on the appliance was wearing a Cairns 660C. Multiple pieces struck the firefighter in the head. His helmet protected him from serious facial and other head injuries. Without it or a quality product may not have had the same result. Our Department has used Cairns helmets since the mid 70's and we continue to use them today. Thank you.

Lance S. Allentown, PA

Lance S. Allentown, PA Fountain Hill Fire Department

Cairns has been an intergal part of my firefighting career. I started off with a Cairns 660 Metro. I then bought my own Cairns 1044 and got plenty of use out of that helmet until I was recently promoted to EMS Lieutenant. I now wear an orange Cairns 1010 Defender. I have never trusted anything else but Cairns for my protection. Thank you for making such a great product. Please keep up the superior craftsmanship. The attached photo I have titled "The corporate ladder".

James M. Exmore, VA

James M. Exmore, VA Northampton Fire / Rescue, Inc.

In 1988 I bought my Dad a Cairns 660, in honor of his election as Chief of the East Milton VFD in Milton, Fla. He wore it thru several years, until he retired in 1995 due to health reasons. He passed away last July,at the age of 85. Before he died he passed the helmet back to me, to wear at my volunteer fire company, after 23 years of service, I would like to retire my dads helmet to a place of honor, and to preserve it to pass on to my grandchildren.

John M. Traverse City, MI

I got my Cairns 660 brand new when i joined as an explorer in 2007. it has been with me through out my career and protected my head more times than i can count, probably the most recent was a section of 5" coming off the truck and the coupling smacking me in the head but my helmet was there to protect me. it takes the abuse so i can keep doing my job.

Ben R. Ardmore, OK

Never would I have thought my Cairns 660C Metro would come in handy at a grass fire. My 660C was just in reach when the call for trees to be cut down was made. In the process of cutting our "road" to the fire, a very large tree decided to make its home on top of my head which managed to break my shield and clips off and knock me out. I am glad my Cairns helmet did its job in preventing further damage. Thanks for making great products. - Ben Rieck

Philip H. Lyman, SC

My department responded to a working structure fire. The structure involved was a garden style apartment, 3 stories and two breezeways. The fire started in a storage closet on the first floor and had worked up the side of the wood siding and involved the attic. Upon arrival of our first due companies (less than 3 minutes), the fire had already self ventilated through the roof. I was on my first day of off duty and per our SOP's, responded to the scene POV. When I reported to staging, I was assigned to a four man crew to advance a handline to the third floor of the structure. We pulled our line through the breezeway to the stairway (interior) of the C side of the structure. As we were advancing the line up the stairs, a portion of the ceiling fell on our crew. My Cairns 660C Metro helmet took the hit for me. The right portion of my shield front bracket was broken (I had to use my goggles to hold in in place after the fire). My Packtracker was torn from my SCBA and could not be recovered from the amount of debris. Thanks to my Cairns 660C I was able to continue with my assignment and we were able to save two-thirds of the structure.

Michael D. Willimantic, CT

Michael D. Willimantic, CT Wales fire dept

I went to a propane drill in Holland, MA. This was not my first time doing one of these drills. We were asked to use the Holland Fire Department nozzles which didn't flow enough water. There was 3 Cairns 660C Metro helmets along with three sets of Cairns bunker gear that got burnt so bad the paint flaked off. The coats and pants were no good either. After that, we used Wales Fire Department (our station) nozzles and we didn't ruin any more gear. The picture of the helmet is the best of all three. It belonged to my dad, the chief of the Wales Fire Department at the time. The helmet may have been cooked and so was his gear, but he's still here and able to tell the story all thanks in part to your great products.

Mark F. Palatka, FL

In 1991, while conducting a live-fire evolution, another Instructor and myself remained in the structure after our students had exited. We stayed to rebuild the fire and prepare for the next team to enter and perform their evolution. While building the fire, without warning, the entire ceiling collapsed into the room. We were both struck very hard on our heads. Visibility went to zero and we pushed the debris off, as best we could, grabbed one another and exited the nearest door to the outside. As, we regained our visibility outside, I noticed that my partner only had a skull saver on his head and then felt for my lid as well. I still had my shell on but the retention clips were broken. Neither of us suffered any injuries. In the end, both of the helmets got replacements parts and were placed back into service for another couple years. At the time, we were wearing 660C Metro Helmets. They held up very well and absorbed the shock that would have otherwise transferred to our head/necks.

Stephen D. Sheet Harbour, NS

Stephen D. Sheet Harbour, NS Halifax Fire Department

Different brothers will watch my back but only a Cairns can cover my head. The 660C Metro was great. I love my 1010; covered me in a bale out a window one nasty day. Hope to be wearing a white leather some day. The best helmet there is. Stay safe brothers.

Byron G. Liberty, NC

Byron G. Liberty, NC Chapel Hill Fire Department

When I began my fire service career over 25 years ago, I quickly became interested in the history and tradition associated with the job. I began collecting antique fire equipment early on, and I enjoy sharing that part of the history with younger firefighters as they get started. The helmets pictured are part of my collection, some of which I have worn throughout my career. Left to right are a Cairns 350 Aluminum Senator, a Cairns Classic 1000 that I used for many years as a Live Fire Instructor, a Cairns Leather War Baby complete with a letter from a Cairns family member describing the history behind that model, a Cairns 1010 that I currently wear as a Senior Captain with Chapel Hill, a brand new Cairns N6A Sam Houston ready for service, a Cairns Metro 660C that was my first helmet at Chapel Hill, and my pride & joy - a Cairns N5A New Yorker painted Carolina Blue with our IAFF Local Ram Mascot on the front. Enjoy the picture, remember the history & tradition, and Be Safe!

Cj C. Wallingford, PA

I was fighting a car fire and there was an air jump in the line and my Cairns 660C Metro protected my head from getting hit with the nozzle at full pressure.

Jason A. Camano Island, WA

We use Cairns 660C Metros exclusively for our Firefighters. Recently, at a practice burn, a recruit firefighter was sitting watching the fire behavior with an instructor at her side and a piece of sheetrock from the ceiling gave way. The sheetrock was soaked with water from a recent rain after the roofing was removed. The heat water caused the screws to fail and release the sheetrock. She was fine thanks to her protective equipment.

Bill C. Freeville, NY

Back on January 31, 2010 my house burned, my department along with four mutual aid departments responded. During salvage operations, one of the members asked if there was anything I needed out of the house? I said all our medications out of the bathroom, So with nothing to carry the medications out with, they used the three cairns helmets I had hanging on the wall to carry the medications out, one leather N5A New Yorker (red), one 660C Metro (white), and one 660C Metro (black). They were smoked damaged, but I still have them and will proudly display them again as soon as I get a chance to do so.

Jacob A. Valley, AL

I wore a Cairns 660C Metro throughout my internship as an explorer. I wore my helmet proudly on wrecks on Interstate 85, brush fires and a good handful of exterior attacks. Well when the time came for me to move up I was bypassed in the gear receiving area seeing as I already had personal gear that was to date, and the there were certified guys coming in and getting the Dept. issued gear. Well my great Cairns story takes place on two scenes. The first was right across from Chiefs house, we had been scheduled to do mock wreck at the school that day but the tone dropped and we rolled an eighty eight E-One pumper along side one of our 3500 gallon tankers. I was left at the station. When the engine officer topped the hill about a three-quarters of a mile from the scene and had flames visible at a distance he asked for more personnel to respond, so I and a senior firefighter got in the the service truck and headed that way. When we got on scene it was a pre-fab home with flames through the roof, he and I took an attack line to the rear of the house and made egress to the kitchen. Our Battalion Chief that day was also a Captain for the City of Opelika and he recalls it as possibly the hottest single family dwelling fire he had ever seen. As we made our way into the structure deeper and deeper my helmets became heavier and heavier and took some good hits from rafters and all, the weight was coming from the water lines ran in the ceiling that were melting down on us. But after it was all said and done my lid saved me from what my officer was saying. Two days after that we went to a neighboring Dept. for Mutual Aide, I ended up going in with a member from their Dept. Needless to say my lid was there again taking good lick but this time not only from rafters but the entire half of the mobile home. I was in a collapse that day. The cause was by him not leaving when I thought it was time to go, ended up I was right. I was pretty sore the next day but my lid kept my head safe, and that is the reason I would be honored to win a Cairns Helmets. - Jacob Arthur 675 B.F.D.

Phil M. Newton, MA

They say you'll never forget your first love...I say you'll never forget your first fire helmet. I have been a firefighter for 7 years. I started my fire career at a small college fire department, Franklin Piece Fire. It is the only fully student run Fire Department in the country. They didn't have the best equipment, our first due truck was a 1969 Chevy Pumper...but what they did have that was great was the Cairns Helmets. They had a Cairns 660C Metro, which was my first helmet. I loved my Cairns, and all it stood for. I had it for 4 long years, and when it came time to graduate, and thus pass it down to the next student, I couldn't leave it behind. I bought it from my Student Fire Department with a donation to buy two Cairns helmets, and now proudly let it hang by my door. For me, that was a great deal, this helmet was a part of my history and I couldn't leave it behind. I am now a career firefighter with a Cairns 880 Chicago, because I love the product and the company. And I know I'll be a Cairns customer for life.

John M. Horseheads, NY

Been in the fire service for 26 years. Been wearing a Cairns helmet for 24 of them. From a 660C Metro to a Cairns 1010 to a N5A New Yorker. I love the product. Good job Cairns and MSA.

Matthew B. Windsor, ON

Matthew B. Windsor, ON Windsor Fire & Rescue

I have been fortunate enough to work in the Fire service for 30 years. During that time I have collected many fire related items, especially helmets. This helmet is the prize. I looked long and hard to locate a leather high eagle N5A New Yorker helmet. I was always too late or too little on the money. I finally succeeded two years ago when it all came together and I was in the right place at the right time. The helmet is dated 1773 but I believe this is a commemorative date. The front piece shield has only the number 14 on it and no identifying fire company or city. I understand that it may have been a presentation piece given for recognition however, there was little that the previous owner knew about the origin. It appears to be the style used in the 1880s although there is no date of manufacture. The interior leather looks very old and the vent button is marked Cairns and Bros. Nonetheless, it caps off a career that started with a model 770 Philadelphian, 660C Metro, Cairns 1010, and finally a B-TRD as a Captain, all of which are part of my collection. I was lucky in that I never had to use the capabilities of the helmets, but I knew it was always there, on top.

Mark L. Palm Coast, FL

Mark L. Palm Coast, FL Flagler County Fire & Rescue

We used to wear 660C Metros but then in 2001 after 9-11 we started to switch to the 1010s. First the officers and then the rest switched over. I myself bought a black 1010 & then a White 1010 when I became Chief, I still have both. I have tried others but the comfort of Cairns is just better than the rest.

Robert F. swartz creek, MI

Robert F. swartz creek, MI Gaines Township Fire dept

All my life I always wanted to be a firefighter like my great uncle, my grand father, my uncle, and my dad. Like every firefighting dad he was my hero, always sharing story's with me. On a summer day a few years back my father's dept was dispatched for a gas station fire. on their arrival they found this building to be 45% involved. He and his partner made the initial interior attack, when my father opened the hand line he went sliding across the floor and smacked up against a shelf knocking his mask half off his face and broke the face shield but the 660C Metro helmet remained intact and now sits on my shelf.

Michael P. Westerville, OH

I was working for a small vol. fire department we had a training fire I went in to do the last round through the house, we had most of the fire in the back rooms, I went into the front door got about 20 feet in the front door when the floor gave way and I went into the basement the basement was fully involved when I stood up and looked around. I got to looking around and found the basement steps and made my way out of the house when I got out my helmet was scorched and smoking I was fine but my gear and helmet was condemned due to the heat and the intense fire, I still have that helmet it is hanging on my wall it is a Cairns 660C Metro if i remember right.

Bryan H. Cheraw, SC

Bryan H. Cheraw, SC Cheraw Fire Department

On the morning of October 27, 2007 while operating an exterior of a structure fire. I was manning a hoseline when fire broke thru the roof of a structure. Thus causing the remains of the roof to flip to the outside, landing on me. It knocked me towards the fire. I was wearing my airpack but was not on air at the time, nor had my face piece in place. However I did have my helmet on as required. Luckily it was a Cairns 660C, department issue. I received multiple face and neck burns and was sent to Joseph M. Still Burn Center in Augusta GA, 3 hours away. I learned later that what fell was heavy timber structural material, and had it not been for my helmet. I wouldn't be here today. I was out of work recovering from 2nd and 3rd degree burns for 2 1/2 months. Still love my job to this day. Thanks Cairns for saving my life!

Ian S. Gagetown, NB

Ian S. Gagetown, NB Gagetown Fire Rescue

cooling it down after a wearhouse fire



Brian W. Stephenson, MI

Brian W. Stephenson, MI Stephenson Fire

no real good story, but my department has the 660. they are twelve years old. i would really like the new yorker or the houston. is it true you dont make the brown color any more? we just cant afford new ppe yet. we are a very small voll. dept.

Justin C. Rothesay, NB

Justin C. Rothesay, NB KVFD

My first fire helmet... also my first Cairns!



Scot M. Union Grove, WI

During training they give us the Cairns 660C Metro helmet an during our last fire drill we had to sit in the fire an watch it an explain what was going on during that period of time it got upwards of 700 degrees and we backed out to cool down an while taking out gear off i noticed my shield on my cairns actually started to melt but it held up pretty good an still very useable only around the edges did it melt so all in all good helmet cant wait till we get our traditionals this week again its the Cairns 1010 i believe, thanks guys

Bill C. Freeville , NY

I have used cairns helmets for 30 years, my first one was a yellow 770 Philadelphian, then after ten years went to the 660C Metro in black, those two helmets with face shield saw many structure fires with debris falling on my head many times, and the face shield protected my eyes from broken glass at structure fires and motor vehicle wrecks. I now wear a Cairns 1044 white with face shield, and must honestly say that i have tried on other brands of helmets, but always use the cairns for quality and comfort.

JAMES M. EXMORE, VA

I HAVE BEEN A PROUD OWNER AND USER OF A CAIRNS N5A NEW YORKER SINCE 1988, I HAVE STRIVED TO TAKE CARE OF THE OLD GIRL, BUT LAST YEAR USE AND AGE FINALLY FORCED ME TO RETIRE HER TO A PLACE OF HONOR. i ALSO WAS ELECTED ASST. CHIEF, SO NOW I WEAR A 660C Metro. MY N5A WAS A FITTED HELMET, AND WAS THE MOST COMFORTABLE, DURABLE, AND TOUGHEST HELMET I'VE SEEN, I WAS WEARING MINE BEFORE ALL OF THE PLASTIC TRADITIONAL HELMETS HIT THE MARKET. IF THE OLD GIRL COULD TALK, YOU'D HEAR SOME GOOD WAR STORIES.

Scot M. Union Grove, WI

during training i use a Cairns 660C Metro helmet and it has helped me a few times when they black out our masks and have use in confined spaces going blindly an I have to say it has taken the abuse like a champ just a few scratches and that's it. thanks guys ill keep you posted when more happens

Ted M. Shermans Dale, PA

Lovin leathers I've been a firefighter for almost twenty years the co I run with had Philly helmets then metros



Ronald M. Schenectady, NY

On February 12, 1995, I was assigned to a rescue company, Rescue-3. We were dispatched to a fully involved attic fire at a 2 1/2 story wood frame residence. The roof had collapsed prior to our arrival and we were sent to search the building for any occupants. My partner and I made our way through the first and second floors without finding anyone. We went to the attic which was now 3/4 open space. The fire was out at this time and we were standing in a group waiting for our next assignment. My officer said we would go down and get some tools and help with overhaul. I remember looking up at the moon and seeing a bright halo around it due to the condensation in my SCBA mask. ( At the time we did not have nose cups in our facepieces, but did shortly thereafter.) When we went to go down from the attic, I was feeling my way over slate shingles and other debris. The next thing I remember was waking up in the hospital ER, in severe pain, extremely hard to breathe, in a scene of chaos. I found out I fell from the attic space approximately 30' onto a blacktop driveway, landing on my right side. My fire helmet, a Cairns 660C Metro protected me from serious head trauma due to the foam cap inside. The brim on the entire right side was laid flat against the side of my head, which absorbed some of the energy as well as protecting that side. The right side of the helmet was cracked and deeply scratched, the inner foam cap was cracked. I received 18 fractures involving my ribs, right wrist, right ankle, minor fractured skull, and minor pneumothorax. (Small tear in my right lung.) I firmly believe that along with my full PPE, your helmet helped to save my life that day and 15 years later I am still working as a firefighter with 23 years on the job. Keep up the good work and continue making the best helmet in the fire service. With all respect and gratitude, Captain Ronald Maslanka

Paul P. Walden, NY

Paul  P. Walden, NY Walden Fire Department

We were operating at a two story ordinary with fire on the first floor with some extension on the second floor. I was the truck officer that day and working on the second floor conducting ventilation and overhaul. At this time in the department, radios were not always available and communication was always easier to face to face. The Chief in charge was looking for me so I stuck my head out the second floor window to find out what he needed. What they failed to notify me of was that they decided to let one of the mutual companies ventilate the roof, at the same time I stuck my head out the window the mutual aid company threw a 2' x 4' piece of shingled cover plywood off the roof. That piece of plywood hit me square in head good thing for me I had a strong neck and my 660C Metro helmet, I walked away without a scratch and no damage to the Metro. I still have that helmet and use it for rescue operations. I bought that helmet in 1985 and it was my first of many Cairns helmets. The enclosed picture shows me wearing that helmet at one of the many fires I fought wearing it over the years. This photo was taken at a fire in the mid 1990's.

Steven Y. Gouverneur, NY

Steven Y. Gouverneur, NY Gouverneur Fire Company Inc.

As Chief of the Gouverneur Fire Company Inc., Gouverneur, NY, I would not have nothing but a Cairns Helmet on my members. These helmets do nothing but perform to the riggers of the job as one of the busiest departments in our area. You keep making a great product and we'll keep buying them. Myself and my Assistants wear the 660C Metros and my members wear the Cairns 1010s.