The student voice of Washington State University since 1895

The Daily Evergreen

The student voice of Washington State University since 1895

The Daily Evergreen

The student voice of Washington State University since 1895

The Daily Evergreen

Master’s student hoping to produce firefighter jacket in Hawaii

Got involved because of experience in design, hopes to send product to 13th largest fire station in country

A master’s student at WSU is currently working with a team in Hawaii to develop a chemically safer firefighter jacket. 

Stone Duran, WSU merchandising and textiles master’s student, said he got involved with the project through a professor he is working with. 

His professor recommended him to the team in Hawaii because of his work with design aspects of apparel and textiles, Duran said. So, he is now a part of the team of people working with mechanical engineering and marketing. 

Currently, there are chemicals in a jacket that are beneficial because they are heat resistant and flame retardant, but there are multiple negative side effects, including cancer, Duran said. 

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“You’re actually more likely to die from cancer from the jacket itself than from a fire,” he said. 

Project manager Chester Leoso said the jacket the group hopes to produce will have no chemicals within the jacket. 

Leoso said the project is through NASA. They have worked with the agency in the past, and are now reformatting, redeveloping and restructuring their approach to the project. 

They are currently producing a prototype, and this year is dedicated to developing applicable prototypes and testing each prototype to National Fire Protection Association and federal regulations, as well as state regulations, specifically in Hawaii, Leoso said. 

The project is funded through undergraduate research programs at the University of Hawaii, and the team is resubmitting proposals and pitches to other organizations to seek more funding, he said. 

Leoso said the project is important because there is a big negligence in the way people think about firefighter attire. 

“We would give the best opportunities and best equipment for our military, for police officers, but our first responders are given those last things,” he said. “They don’t get that priority system because it’s not much of an immediate emergency system.”

But, the chemicals in a firefighter jacket cause an indirect impact on the user’s life, Leoso said. 

“If we found out that uniforms in the United States Army or anything caused cancer, that would change overnight, but when it came to firefighters, that was just part of the deal,” he said. 

Leoso said the risk of getting cancer when wearing a jacket is just accepted, and the team wants to protect and save firefighters’ lives as much as the firefighters do for other people. 

But, firefighting is just one of the occupations the project can be applied to, he said.

“The importance of this project is to begin the journey of innovating the attire industry, where clothing talks to technology in a non-invasive manner, additionally playing potential for space exploration, whilst limiting risk to the user,” Leoso said.

Duran said the overall goal is to start production in Hawaii because of the fires that happened in Maui recently, and the 13th largest fire station is in Hawaii. 

Working on this project has benefited Duran personally because it has helped him figure out how product systems work in real life, he said. 

The team has presented the idea to a wide range of students and judges across the country to show they could produce physical objects that could be beneficial to people, Duran said. 

Leoso said federal regulations are beginning to change to limit harmful chemical treatments on fire suits. 

“This is a regulation that’s going to change. The products are going to change and so will the accessories,” he said. “Being ahead of the times and this project is pretty important.”

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About the Contributors
Alexandria started working for the Evergreen in October 2020 as a news reporter and eventually hopped around to the roots/life, opinion and culture sections. She was a copy editor for three semesters beginning in January 2021 and was the Life editor in fall 2022. She was the copy chief for the summer and fall 2023 semesters, and is currently the editor-in-chief for the spring 2024 semester. She is from Tri-Cities, WA, and is always writing in her free time.
SHALLA NEWMAN, Evergreen illustrator
Shalla Newman is a graphic illustrator for the Daily Evergreen. They are a fourth year student studying Fine Arts and DTC from Spokane, Washington. Shalla started working for the Daily Evergreen Summer of 2023.