Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Fire Shelter Practice

So what are a bunch of people doing just standing around with a beautiful mountain in the background?

They're not enjoying the view, they're getting ready for the annual fire shelter deployment exercise.

If you're a wildland firefighter (full-time, part-time, or once-in-a-blue-moon (I fall in that last category)), you have to take annual refreshers. Most of it is in the classroom, reviewing safety for various fire-related things. Then, at the end, you go outside and pretend that a roaring fire has blown up and you don't have time to get out of the way.

So you drop your pack, use your tool to clean down to mineral soil, and deploy your fire shelter. If all goes well, you will be able to live to tell all about it.

The shelters are simple, but you have to be ready to deploy it quickly, so we practice getting in them every year, and have 30 seconds to do so.

The clock starts, and the second round of recruits heads to the deployment area.

The real fire shelters are made of aluminum foil laminated to another layer, but because they're expensive and don't do well with multiple deployments, we use practice shelters instead, made of a green tarp material.

It takes a few seconds to pull the shelter out of the case.

Then it's time to shake it out.
Then you get under it and lay down on the ground, holding the interior straps firmly as the strong fire winds whip around you.

There are different preferences for how to get into the shelter the fastest.
Then the instructors come around and shake the shelters to make sure you're holding it down well. It's a bit claustrophobic inside (and this is coming from someone who likes tight passages in caves). It would be really tough during a real fire to stay calm and keep the shelter down. The super-heated air kills before the fire does in most cases.

These guys were all able to deploy in 30 seconds. You'd want your feet to be pointing towards the flames, so the guy on the left needs to rotate 90 degrees.

Last year wasn't a particularly busy wildland fire year. It will be interesting to see what happens. Many millions of acres need to burn--but they need to burn in a way that won't threaten lives, and that can certainly be a challenge!


The Incredible Woody said...

I have a great admiration for firefighters whether they are in towns or in the wilderness.

Survivalsense said...

Very interesting. In Oregon,those same types of shelters are used for forest fires.

Mel Burke said...

My former son-in-law does this for a living. Was at Airport Security when an inspector accidentally pulled the cord on his survival bag. It automatically deployed :) He missed his flight :):)

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