Fire suits

These Kevlar fire suits, made by Lion Apparel in Dayton, Ohio, can withstand temperatures of up to 2,000 degrees. The knees are reinforced with flame-resistant foam that insulates even when wet, allowing firefighters, who can sweat as much as two quarts an hour, to attack from below, where the air is cooler. Founded in 1898 by William Lapedes, Lion Apparel is run by his great-grandson, Steve Schwartz. The $172 million company employs 890 people.


A fire hose gets its strength from a weave of nylon and polyester threads. These hoses, made by Snap-tite in Erie, Pennsylvania, are made in 50-foot sections that can be tightly folded into a fireman's backpack and lugged into a burning building. Founded in 1935 by Malcolm Clark, the $110 million company, which employs 700, is run by his three grandsons.


When water flows through a fire hose, it reaches pressures as high as 350 pounds per square inch. But that pressure can vary drastically from moment to moment, creating a dangerous situation for a firefighter trying to control the hose. The nozzles made by Task Force Tips, based in Valparaiso, Indiana, narrow or widen according to changes in pressure, so water is released at a constant rate. Founded by Clyde McMillan in 1971, the 188-employee company is run by his son Stewart.

Warning lights

As this fire truck hurtles through an intersection, red and white strobe lights made by Whelen Engineering grab the attention of nearby drivers. George W. Whelen III founded the company in 1952 to make aircraft lights. The 1,100-employee company, based in Chester, Connecticut, is still owned by the Whelen family and is run by president John Olson.