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What's New With the New Generation Fire Shelter?

Touching Shelter Material

Some firefighters are concerned about hot fire shelter material touching them during deployment. In May 2005, MTDC sponsored tests conducted by the Protective Clothing and Equipment Research Facility of the University of Alberta in Edmonton. The researcher applied flames from a single propane burner to the surface of the New Generation fire shelter and measured the interior and exterior surface temperature (figure 6.) Flame temperatures ranged from 1,472 degrees Fahrenheit to 1,652 degrees Fahrenheit (800 degrees Celsius to 900 degrees Celsius) as expected from a diffusion flame. After 7 seconds of flame, the outer surface temperature reached 376 degrees Fahrenheit (191 degrees Celsius) while the average inside surface temperature reached 187 degrees Fahrenheit (86 degrees Celsius). After 18 seconds of flame exposure, the shelter’s outer surface temperature reached 590 degrees Fahrenheit (310 degrees Celsius) while average inner surface temperature was 318 degrees Fahrenheit (159 degrees Celsius). The researcher observed the material of the New Generation fire shelter remained intact and provided protection from the flames for the duration of the 1-minute test. In a similar test with the old-style shelter, the flame burned through the material in 15 seconds, and flames entered the shelter. Although the hot material of the New Generation fire shelter may touch the occupant, in this test the researcher observed this shelter provided more protection than the oldstyle shelter.

Photo of a new generation fire shelter being sprayed with flame from a hand-held drip torch.
Figure 6—Flames are impinging on a New Generation
fire shelter during a surface temperature test.

Remember, no fire shelter—whether New Generation or old-style—is fail safe. Carrying a fire shelter should never be considered as an alternative to safe wildland firefighting.

Fire Shelter Polyvinyl Chloride Bag

The main function of the polyvinyl chloride (PVC) bag is to protect the fire shelter from dirt and abrasion, which can reduce its service life. Wildland firefighters should treat their fire shelters with care and protect them from damage. The fire shelter sleeve of the Fireline Pack (NSN: 8465-01-503-4484) has been redesigned to lessen the amount of dirt and debris that enters the sleeve.

The pull strap on the PVC shelter bag was designed to help remove the shelter from its pack during a shelter deployment. This feature was incorporated into the old-style shelter design in 1999 and was brought forward to the New Generation fire shelter. There have been no reports of the strap detaching from the old-style shelter. However, during shelter deployment drills performed by firefighters and tests done by MTDC, the pull strap detached from the PVC shelter bag when the strap was jerked abruptly. Pull tests show the pull strap tore from the shelter bag with an average force of 65 pounds when pulled straight away. When pulled at an angle, some pull straps tore away with only 35 pounds of force.

Equipment specialists at MTDC have reinforced the pull-strap attachment point on the PVC shelter bag that holds the New Generation fire shelter. With the reinforcement, the tear-away force has been increased to over 100 pounds. All PVC bags manufactured since June 2005 are made with the reinforced design.

PVC shelter bags made before this change can be retrofitted. The reinforcement retrofit uses an adhesive and nylon webbing to strengthen the attachment point. The adhesive is available through many hardware and home improvement stores nationwide. Nylon webbing can be purchased in fabric stores, sewing shops, or by contacting Matt Cnudde at the National Interagency Fire Center (208-387-5277).

Retrofit Materials

Adhesive: 3M Marine Adhesive Sealant—Fast Cure 5200. Part No. 051135-05220.

Nylon webbing: Mil-T-5038, type 3, 1 inch wide, 5½ inches long. Cut the webbing with a heat knife or sear the ends with a match to prevent them from fraying.

Instructions

The following photographs show a simple way to reinforce PVC shelter bags produced before June 2005.

Photo of a person applying marine adhesive sealant to a piece of nylon webbing.
STEP 1: Apply a thin bead of adhesive to the nylon webbing.

Photo of a person spreading adhesive evenly over one side of a strip of nylon webbing.
STEP 2: Spread adhesive so it is 1⁄16 inch thick.

Photo of a person applying an adhesive-smeared piece of nylon webbing to one side of the pull strap attachment area on a fire shelter.
STEP 3: Apply the webbing to one side of the pull strap attachment area and
smooth it in place. Repeat on the opposite side of the pull-strap attachment area.

Photo of a person applying paper binders to the pull strap area of a fire shelter to hold the nylon webbing in place until the adhesive dries.
STEP 4: To ensure positive contact until the adhesive cures, use clothespins
or paper binders to hold the webbing in place. The adhesive cures in 24 hours.

Other Fire Shelter-Related Information

Appendix C of the Tarkio Fire, I-90 Complex, Shelter Deployment Investigation Review Documents contains the personal protective equipment report that was based on information from inspections and interviews conducted after three firefighters deployed New Generation fire shelters. The report is on the Northern Region fire information Web page at: http://www.fs.fed.us/r1/fire_r1/.

A tech tip, New Generation Fire Shelter Developed for Wildland Firefighters (0351-2313-MTDC), provides information on the new fire shelter system. This tech tip includes instructions on modifying existing fireline packs to fit the new shelter.

The tech tip, Fire Shelters Weaken Transmissions From Hand-Held Radios (0351-2342-MTDC), provides information that shows firefighters may have difficulty communicating using hand-held radios while inside fire shelters.

The tech tip, Large New Generation Fire Shelter Now Available (0551-2325-MTDC), provides information on the new large fire shelter. This tech tip discusses the differences between the standard and large fire shelters, which size wildland firefighters should use, and provides information on training and on ordering fire shelters.

About the Author

Tony Petrilli is an equipment specialist for the fire and aviation and safety and health programs at MTDC. He has a bachelor's degree in education from Western Montana College. Petrilli began working for the Forest Service in 1982 and joined the center full time in 2000. He has worked as a firefighter on the Lewis and Clark and Beaverhead National Forests and as a smokejumper for the Northern Region. He is also a division/group supervisor and type III incident commander.

Additional single copies of this document may be ordered from:

USDA FS, Missoula Technology and Development Center
5785 Hwy. 10 West
Missoula, MT 59808–9361
Phone: 406–329–3978
Fax: 406–329–3719
E-mail: wo_mtdc_pubs@fs.fed.us

Electronic copies of MTDC's documents are available on the Internet at:

http://www.fs.fed.us/t-d.

For additional information, contact Tony Petrilli at MTDC.

Phone: 406-329-3965
Fax: 406-329-3719
E-mail: apetrilli@fs.fed.us

Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management employees can search a more complete collection of MTDC's documents, videos, and CDs on their internal computer networks at:

http://fsweb.mtdc.wo.fs.fed.us/search.