Above: Left to right: Bobby Williams, Nick Mink/BLM, Blake Stewart/USFWS, and Joe Roise inspect the fire shelter model currently used by firefighters, which was included in the field test for comparative purposes. Photo courtesy Great Plains Fire Management Zone
North Carolina State University researchers this week began field testing new fire shelter prototypes during prescribed fire operations in South Dakota.
About a year after the deaths of 19 Granite Mountain Hotshots from the 2013 Yarnell Hill Fire, the U.S. Forest Service entered into a collaborative agreement with the NASA Langley Research Center. The goal: to examine potential improvements to fire shelter performance. University researchers also received a FEMA Assistance to Firefighters Grant to develop new material that improved existing fabric technology and enhanced current fire shelters.
Researchers from North Carolina State’s College of Textiles worked with the Department of Forestry and Environmental Resources to study and offer up potential improvements.
Until this week, those efforts were generally confined to the university’s lab. But researchers joined an East River Fire Training Exchange training crew for burn operations in eastern South Dakota to test a new fire shelter prototype.
“The whole project is extremely important because it can save lives across the nation,” Professor Joe Roise said in a news release, posted to InciWeb. “That’s the bottom line: saving lives.”
Operations are taking place this week in the Madison Wetland Management District.
Field testing is likely to continue in coming weeks and months. The shelter models will be tested in fires on Virginian marshland, north Florida pine forests and timber throughout Canada’s Northwest Territories.