Firefighting is an extremely dangerous profession no matter where it is done, but it can be even more dangerous for those firefighters that fight wildfires. Changing wind conditions and little access to water and other key firefighting tools can leave a group of people fighting wildfires badly exposed and in danger. In an attempt to help with safety, those fighting wildfires in the USA are required by the federal government to carry what are known as ‘safety shelters’ with them that can be used as a last ditch effort to save themselves if a wildfire entraps them. These shelters work great to reflect radiant heat but fail miserably when exposed to direct flame. Manufacturers are working on new technology to overcome this fact, but it cannot get here soon enough.
The hazards for those fighting wildfires are many. A big part of the problem is the remote location of many of these fires. Many brave and highly skilled firefighters actually parachute into remote areas to fight wildfires; these men are known as ‘smoke jumpers’ and are usually employed by the federal government but there is not nearly enough of them to fight all the wildfires that take place in America each year. Other manpower sources include detachments from paid fire departments and there are volunteer firefighters that fight wildfires as well. The remote locations of wildfires often make it very difficult to get men and equipment to where they are needed the most. Changing wind and drought conditions make fighting wildfires even more complicated.
The biggest incident that has spurred on development of new storm shelters took place near Yarnell, Arizona on June 28, 2013 during a wildfire that was said to be ignited by lightning strikes. As the men were establishing barriers to protect property from the wildfire, the wind abruptly shifted and it caused the fire to entrap the well-trained detachment of men from Prescott, Arizona’s fire department. As a result, all 19 members that were in the area lost their lives. When officials arrived on the scene, many firefighters were found dead inside their deployed storm shelters.
Current storm shelters are made of an outer layer that is composed of aluminum foil that is adhered to a woven silica cloth. The foil is designed to reflect radiant heat and the silica material is supposed to slow the passage of heat into the inside of the storm shelter. The inner layer is made of aluminum foil laminated to a layer of fiberglass; this is designed to further stop heat transference to the inside of the storm shelter. The shelters will also trap oxygen and allow natural cooling from the ground.
The big problem with current storm shelters is they do not stop flames as the heat often melts the glue that holds the fiberglass on the inner layer of aluminum foil. It is a problem that even NASA research scientists are helping to try to overcome, but some 2 years after the Yarnell, Arizona fire disaster there still is no improved version of the fire shelter available. Recent joint tests in Canada have shown promise, so hopefully a new and improved version of fire shelters will be available soon.
Disclaimer: The content in this article is the opinion of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the policies or opinions of US Patriot Tactical.
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