Working as a wildland firefighter isn’t easy and is often dangerous. When a wildland firefighter gets caught in a bad situation, their last resort is a fire shelter, a safety device that could save their life. Fire shelters can protect from the radiant heat and gas inhalation for a short time, but what materials are they made from? These layers of aluminum foil, silica, and fiberglass are the final line of defense between a firefighter and a fire.
How Do Fire Shelters Work?
Before jumping into the different materials that make up a fire shelter, it’s important to know exactly how these shelters work. When a wildland firefighter is trapped by a wildfire, a fire shelter can save their life. To use these shelters, the firefighter lays on the ground and deploys it over themselves, trapping breathable air and protecting themselves from radiant and convective heat.
The Outer Layer
The outer layer of the fire shelter, which directly interacts with the flames and heat, is aluminum foil bonded to silica cloth. The foil on this layer reflects radiant heat from the fire and flames, and the silica slows the heat coming into the shelter. A fire shelter can protect a firefighter for more than an hour. However, if the heat is still intense after that point, it will continue penetrating the fire shelter and putting the firefighter in danger.
The outer layer reflects about 95 percent of heat, and over time, the outer layer absorbs that heat, reducing its effectiveness. The heat can even melt the glue bonding the layers, at which point harmful winds can tear the foil off the shelter.
The Inner Layer
The inner layer of a fire shelter is aluminum foil laminated to fiberglass. This layer prevents heat absorbed into the silica cloth from radiating to the firefighter in the shelter. In addition to preventing the heat from coming in, an air gap between the layers offers insulation. Meanwhile, the fiberglass and foil help maintain the cool temperature from the ground.
Fire shelters are made from a few different materials, but they all come together to protect wildland firefighters in dangerous situations. It’s a scary situation to end up in, but what’s even scarier is being in that situation and not having a wildland firefighter fire shelter to deploy. Shop fire shelters at The Supply Cache so you can avoid that situation and stay safe, even in the worst circumstances.