The Development of a Thermally Enhanced Emergency Fire Shelter

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47th International Conference on Environmental Systems

Since its founding in 1905, the U.S. Forest Service has been responsible for maintaining public lands. The Forest Service and other agencies respond to an average of 73,000 wildfires per year, and responding firefighters are required to carry a number of safety gear items, including the M2002 emergency fire shelter. The emergency fire shelter is intended to serve as a last resort means of protection in case a firefighter’s escape route has been compromised in the face of an approaching flame front. No fire shelter deployment tragedy has been more costly than the 2013 Yarnell Hill fire in Arizona, where 19 members of the Granite Mountain Hotshots perished. After the tragedy at Yarnell Hill, the Forest Service decided to expedite the next redesign cycle of the fire shelter in order to improve its ability to withstand direct contact with flames. Engineers at NASA Langley Research Center have spent the better part of a decade developing flexible thermal materials for use in inflatable aerodynamic decelerators and have demonstrated their performance in the IRVE-2 and IRVE-3 flight programs (Inflatable Reentry Vehicle Experiment). NASA engineers recognized an opportunity to leverage their experience and knowledge with flexible thermal protection systems to potentially improve the fire shelter’s resistance to direct flame contact, and have been working directly with the U.S. Forest Service to achieve this goal. They launched the CHIEFS project (Convective Heating Improvement for Emergency Fire Shelters) in 2014. Over the past three years, CHIEFS has screened over 270 unique material combinations, and tested nearly 30 unique full scale shelter concepts in an effort to achieve a game changing improvement to the thermal protection of the fire shelter, while maintaining minimal mass and volume. This talk will present an overview of the CHIEFS project as well as thermal test findings, methodology and lessons learned.

Josh Fody, NASA Langley Research Center (LaRC), USA
ICES509: Fire Safety in Spacecraft and Enclosed Habitats
The 47th International Conference on Environmental Systems was held in South Carolina, USA on 16 July 2017 through 20 July 2017
CHIEFS, Convective, Heating, Improvement, Emergency Fire Shelters, Wildfire, Fire, Forest Fire, NASA, Shelter