Cabin wrap: 15,000 staples in, and 15,000 staples out

Cabin wrapped, Big Fish Fire
Cabin wrapped, Big Fish Fire
A wrapped cabin on the Big Fish Fire in Colorado, 2002. It survived.

As a last resort, wildland firefighters entrapped in a forest fire can gain some protection from the heat by escaping into a pup tent-like fire shelter made of layers of aluminum foil and insulation. Similar material has been used for a couple of decades to wrap cabins and other structures that will be in the path of an approaching fire. When applied properly, it reflects radiant heat and deflects burning embers. Firefighters can apply the material and then leave. More often than not, the structure does not burn.

One company that sells structure wrap is Firezat. Their product  has a layers of aluminum foil and insulation held together with fire resistant DuPont Kevlar thread. They make several different sizes that are not inexpensive — an 8 by 60-foot roll sells for $509.

The U.S. Forest Service’s Northern Region is considering the establishment of a team that would be trained in cabin wrapping and would respond to fires as needed with a trailer full of the equipment and materials needed to protect cabins in remote areas.

The Missoulian has a very interesting article about people being trained in the art and science of wrapping a structure. It includes some interesting facts, such as — it takes an average of 15,000 staples, which then have to be removed.

Here is an excerpt from the article about the training:

…The basics are simple enough. No holes or spaces for embers to fall inside. Always use lots of staples and high-temperature tape to keep the wrap tight.

“The key is getting it as tight as you can,” [Rene] Eustace said. “Your other enemy is wind. Last summer, we had wind events that went on for eight, 10, 12 hours that brought winds up to 50 mph. That kind of wind will work on any weak point that it can find.”

It can take six or seven hours to wrap a cabin. The average building takes about three $400 rolls of fire-resistant material and up to 15,000 staples to secure it.

“And then we go back and pull 15,000 staples back out of it when the fire is done,” [Darby Ranger District Fire Management Officer Keith] Hackbarth said.

With the new trailer in place, additional training and potentially a new dedicated team, the hopes are that the agency will be ready for what looks to be a busy wildfire season this year.


Thanks go out to Dick

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Author: Bill Gabbert

After working full time in wildland fire for 33 years, he continues to learn, and strives to be a Student of Fire.

3 thoughts on “Cabin wrap: 15,000 staples in, and 15,000 staples out”

  1. 6-7 hours to wrap a cabin? I bet Howie Long could wrap one by himself in less than 5!

  2. It might be worth considering spreading the training around. Our rural department has some wrap we picked up surplus and we certainly have some structures where we may not be able to keep a crew. We don’t have any other installation equipment or supplies and we have no training. I found my way to this thread while trying to learn more.


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