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New Generation Fire Shelter Developed for Wildland Firefighters

Ease of Deployment

The holddown straps are in a different location in the new shelter. The straps on the standard shelter crossed the opening of the shelter. Sometimes these straps snagged when a firefighter was deploying the shelter. The holddown straps are now alongside the opening where firefighters can slip their hands through them when deploying.

The new shelter has "shake handles" to speed deployment. If the user grasps the handles and shakes, the shelter will unfold quickly. The handles are marked Right Hand (with red letters) and Left Hand (with black letters). When the user grasps the correct handles, the shelter unfolds with its opening facing the user. Otherwise, the opening will face away from the user, slowing deployment slightly while the user turns the shelter over to reach the opening.

Performance in Radiant Heat and Flames

Radiant and convective testing is critical when assessing a shelter's ability to limit heat transfer. The greatest threats a firefighter faces during an entrapment are burns to the body and inhalation of hot gases which can cause asphyxiation. We assessed the inhalation threat by measuring the temperature at various locations inside the fire shelter. We assessed the potential for burns with temperature and heat flux measurements inside the shelter.

Scientific estimates of the maximum survivable air temperature vary, but dry air temperatures as low as 149 ÆC (300 ÆF) are considered survivable for only very short periods.

The new shelter provides improved protection from both radiant heat and direct flame. In radiant heat tests using full-scale designs, temperatures inside the new generation shelter rose 22 percent less than temperatures inside the standard shelter after 300 seconds. The temperature rose an average of 76 ÆC (169 ÆF) in the new generation shelter compared to 97 ÆC (207 ÆF) in the standard shelter (figure 3). In direct-flame tests, temperatures inside the new generation shelter rose 81 percent less than temperatures inside the standard shelter after 40 seconds. The temperature rose an average of 56.5 ÆC (134 ÆF) inside the new generation shelter, compared to 300 ÆC (572 ÆF) inside the standard shelter (figure 4).

Graph of the results of the internal temperature rise in the radiant test over 300 seconds. The standard shelter shows 97 degrees C and the new generation shelter shows 76 degrees C.
Figure 3—Temperatures inside the new generation fire shelter rose 22 percent less
than temperatures inside the standard shelter during radiant heat tests
of full-scale designs.

Graph of the results of the internal temperature rise in the flame test over 40 seconds. The standard shelter shows 300 degrees C and the new generation shelter shows 56 degrees C.
Figure 4—Temperatures inside the new generation fire shelter rose 81 percent less
than temperatures inside the standard shelter during flame tests
of full-scale designs.

Heat flux is a measure of the rate at which heat strikes a surface. A heat flux of 5 kilowatts per square meter would lead to second-degree burns in about 40 seconds on bare skin. In radiant heat tests, the average peak heat flux was reduced 59 percent, from 3.7 kilowatts per square meter for the standard shelter to just 1.5 kilowatts per square meter for the new generation shelter (figure 5). In direct flame tests, the average peak heat flux for the new generation shelter was 97 percent lower, just 1.3 kilowatts per square meter, compared to 44.1 kilowatts per square meter for the standard shelter (figure 6).

Graph of the results of the peak heat flux in the radiant test over 300 seconds. The standard shelter shows 3.7 kW/m2 and the new generation shelter shows 1.5 kW/m2.
Figure 5—The average heat flux was 59 percent lower for the new generation fire shelter
than for the standard shelter in radiant heat tests of full-scale designs.

Graph of the results of the peak heat flux in the flame test over 40 seconds. The standard shelter shows 44 kW/m2 and the new generation shelter shows 1 kW/m2.
Figure 6—The peak heat flux for the new generation shelter was 97 percent less than
for the standard shelter during the direct flame test of full-scale designs.

Caution

Although the new shelter offers significantly more protection from radiant heat and direct flame, firefighters must remember that the shelter cannot protect them in all circumstances. A firefighter's highest priority should always be to avoid situations that can lead to entrapment. The new fire shelter is not an excuse to take risks on the fireline.

Even though the new shelter offers improved protection from direct flame, you will improve your chance of survival if you deploy where the shelter will not be exposed to direct flame.

Training

Do not carry the new generation fire shelter until you are properly trained. Appropriate training includes, at a minimum, reading the new training pamphlet, viewing the new video or DVD, and practicing deployments with the new practice fire shelter. The video, DVD, and the pamphlet are all titled "The New Generation Fire Shelter." They are available through the National Interagency Fire Center's Publications Management System.