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Firefighters Could Be Using NASA-Designed Forest Fire Shelters in 2017

CHIEFS Material

Forest fires pose life-and-death situations for firefighters, but a partnership between NASA’s Langley Research Center and the United States Department of Agriculture’s Forest Service could provide safety when the heat is on.

The partnership, called CHIEFS or Convective Heating Improvement for Emergency Fire Shelters, led to the development of a fire shelter made from heat-resistant materials NASA is exploring for future planetary missions.

The current shelter prototype is made of a woven quartz fabric bonded to an aluminum film. NASA said it is looking into more efficient high- and low-temperature insulators that will inhibit hot combustion gases from reaching firefighters.

A fire shelter is typically a last resort for firefighters battling forest fires. It resembles a small, foldable tent and is designed to protect firefighters from hot gas inhalation, as well as radiant and convective heat. Fire shelters are not intended for extended use. They’re generally only good for a minute and a half to three minutes, depending upon weather conditions, the terrain, and the types of burning trees or brush, but this offers enough time for an escape or a rescue.

The external aluminum coating reflects 90 percent of radiant heat from a forest fire. Meanwhile, the interior insulation protects the users from hot winds or direct contact with the fire.

The exterior temperature of the shelter in forest fire conditions can range between 1,472° and 2,400° Fahrenheit. The interior must stay below 300° Fahrenheit to keep the users safe.

There are two prototypes being developed by NASA. One is a light design that weighs about 4.3 pounds and more closely resembles current shelters used by fire departments. A heavier version is 6.9 pounds and offers more protection, but its size would necessitate vehicle transport.

The shelters are still in the development and testing phases, but forest firefighters could have them in their arsenals as soon as next year.

 
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*Source: PDDNet.com

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NASA works to improve fire shelters for firefighters

granite-mount-hotshots

FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. (KSAZ)
June of 2013 a devastating tragedy unfolded as the Yarnell Hill Fire forces 19 hotshots to deploy their fire shelters.

None survived.

NASA documented the tragedy in a chilling video.

The loss inspired NASA Space and others to think there has to be a better way to protect those in a fire fight when they get trapped by flames.

“When we learned about the tragedy at Granite Mountain then we began to wonder if some the material we were working on could improve fire shelters and NASA independently had the same idea and when we realized we shared that common interest we began to work together,” said Steve Miller, part of the NASA team designing the new fire shelter.

Steve Miller and Associates Research Foundation in Flagstaff joined the NASA team that is looking for a better fire shelter.

“This is all about buying time in a life or death situation where there is no other way for a firefighter to escape.”

Instead of looking for a new fire shelter material, the team is designing a fire shelter using standard aerospace materials.

“We’re reentering the atmosphere so is there any potential we could use these thermal protection systems to improve shelters they’re using for these entrapment situations,” said Miller.

The standard shelter and new design is a sandwich of materials, that include fiberglass insulation used in aerospace, a high temperature plastic film, and a gas barrier. The end goal is to buy time for a firefighter who has deployed the tent.

Convective heat is what they are most concerned about. In fact the name of the NASA team is CHIEFS: Convective Heat Improvement for Emergency Fire Shelters.

“Because the winds move at 70 miles an hour and carry a lot of heat and they transfer it into a tent very quickly so we need to improve that component of this to protect the firefighters for a longer time,” said Miller.

The US Forest Service, and Miller introduced the new design to Senator John McCain and a group of wildland firefighters in Flagstaff in July.

Senator McCain asked the US forest service firefighters how much confidence they had in the emergency fire shelter.

But the firefighters also acknowledged they would not want to be without it as a last resort.

The new design of the fire shelter is still in research and development says Miller, but will be ready for final testing next year.

The Forest Service wants to test prototypes by next summer and perhaps have the new shelter ready for use by 2018.

 

 
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*Source: Fox10Phoenix.com

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NASA Helping Firefighters Build Better Shelters: Space Technology for Terrestrial Dangers

Credits: NASA

NASA is on a terrestrial mission to apply cutting-edge technology to protect firefighters in the field.

Normally, NASA is tasked with safeguarding expensive and technologically advanced spacecraft (and astronauts) from the extreme temperatures that come with reentering the atmosphere of a planet (like earth). And they’re pretty good at it.

But there’s another place that technology could save lives, and NASA took note a few years ago when wildfire fighters were killed while trying to control a blaze. A 2013 fire in Arizona killed 19, as current fire shelter technology failed.

Since early 2015 a group of NASA scientists has been applying technology to help the U.S. Forest Service build a better shelter.

 

 
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*Source: NASA.gov

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NASA Works with U.S. Forest Service to Improve Fire Shelters

 

NASA engineers say they’re making progress in their efforts to help the U.S. Forest Service design a better emergency fire shelter for wildland firefighters.

The NASA Convective Heating Improvement for Emergency Fire Shelters or CHIEFS project started because of the deadly Yarnell Hill fire in Arizona in 2013. Nineteen firefighters were trapped in a raging, wind-driven wildfire and the emergency shelters they carried and used were unable to save them.

“When I saw that on the news, it just shook me to the core,” said Mary Beth Wusk, now the acting program manager of NASA’s Game Changing Development Program in the Space Technology Mission Directorate. “The huge loss of those firefighters made some of us at NASA think about how our research might help improve firefighter survivability.”

NASA Langley engineer Mary Beth Wusk, at right, participated in personal fire tent shelter concept tests at the University of Alberta in Edmonton, Canada, in September 2015. To the left in the photo are University of Alberta researcher Mark Ackerman, standing; and U.S. Forest Service Fire Shelter Project lead Tony Petrilli, who is leaning over the shelter. Credits: U.S. Forest Service/Ian Grob

NASA Langley engineer Mary Beth Wusk, at right, participated in personal fire tent shelter concept tests at the University of Alberta in Edmonton, Canada, in September 2015. To the left in the photo are University of Alberta researcher Mark Ackerman, standing; and U.S. Forest Service Fire Shelter Project lead Tony Petrilli, who is leaning over the shelter.
Credits: U.S. Forest Service/Ian Grob

At the time Wusk was part of a group at NASA’s Langley Research Center in Hampton, Virginia, that is developing flexible thermal protection systems for inflatable heat shields for spacecraft. NASA Langley signed an agreement with the Forest Service in early 2015 to see if some of its space-age materials could help save firefighters’ lives.

“We’ve been able to use our decade of experience developing flexible heat shield materials, which have a lot of things in common with fire shelter materials,” said Josh Fody, CHIEFS task lead. “We have approached the challenge of designing a new shelter from an engineering perspective, starting with screening small samples of 70 materials and over 290 unique combinations of those materials.

NASA is working with the U.S. Forest Service’s Missoula Technology and Development Center (MTDC) in Montana and Fire Shelter Project leads Anthony Petrilli and Mary Ann Davies. The MTDC team had started a review of the fire shelter design and new materials technology in 2014 with the goal of producing an improved shelter by 2018.

Petrilli has personal knowledge that he can apply to the redesign. As a wildland firefighter in Colorado in 1994 he survived a blaze by using the fire shelter that was part of his gear. Seven others fighting the fire with him also lived, but 14 others did not.

“Our project is trying to take advantage of advances in materials that may offer better protection by slowing the transfer of heat through the shelter layers,” said Petrilli. So the Forest Service and NASA have been testing layered combinations or lay-ups of materials to see which might prove the most effective.

“We learned quickly we couldn’t repurpose our materials directly,” said Fody. “You can’t just take an inflatable heat shield and turn it into a fire shelter. The constraints for mass and volume are far too strict for the fire shelter world.”

Fody says the current shelters are less than a millimeter thick, weigh 4.3 pounds (1.95 kilograms) and pack into a size similar to a half gallon of milk.

“What we ended up doing was drawing more on the test experience and expertise that our senior engineers have and using that to benefit the CHIEFs project,” added Fody. “We’ve learned how to make the insulations more efficient, how to get them smaller and lighter and then we learned even more when we tested the lay-ups in the real world.”

That real world consisted of two different set-ups in Canada, where the Forest Service tests its shelters, and additional tests at North Carolina State University.

NASA Langley researcher Josh Fody, standing at left, prepares shelter concept for testing with U.S. Forest Service personnel Tony Petrilli, center, and Shawn Steber, at right. Credits: U.S. Forest Service/Ian Grob

NASA Langley researcher Josh Fody, standing at left, prepares shelter concept for testing with U.S. Forest Service personnel Tony Petrilli, center, and Shawn Steber, at right.
Credits: U.S. Forest Service/Ian Grob

“Last summer we were in Canada at the University of Alberta,” said Wusk. “We spent three days testing 22 full-scale shelters representing nine different configurations. Four of those configurations were NASA designs.”

University researchers set up a test rig that included a small metal shed equipped with eight large propane burners. The shelters were placed inside the shed, instrumented with heat and gas measuring devices, and then torched so NASA and the Forest Service could see how well the different layups performed.

The team had already tried to assess the new designs in an actual woods fire set in a remote section of Canada’s Northwest Territories, but those tests had to be stopped when the firefighters overseeing the controlled burn were called away to fight an actual wildfire.

“I was really proud of the NASA shelters. The materials did really well,” said Wusk.

The materials proved effective, but researchers noted challenges with the actual designs during the testing. Flames ended up entering under the bottom, in part because there was no one inside holding the test shelters down. Hot gasses also penetrated the seams.

So the team came up with second-generation shelter concepts that they put through flame tests this year. The team returned to the University of Alberta in Edmonton to evaluate five concepts and then traveled closer to home to the Thermal Protection Laboratory at the North Carolina State University College of Textiles in Raleigh to assess 22 shelter prototypes over three months.

The NASA CHIEFS project, which is funded by the Game Changing Development Program in NASA’s Space Technology Mission Directorate, plans to wrap up its research this fall with more tests in Canada. Engineers expect to turn over their findings to the U.S. Forest Service by early 2017. The Forest Service has said it wants have new test shelter prototypes to firefighters by next summer and an approved updated fire shelter ready for use by 2018.

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*Source: NASA.gov

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Developing a more effective fire shelter

Fire approaching firefighters in fire shelters – Little Venus Fire, Wyoming, 2006. Photo: Ryan Jordan

Fire approaching firefighters in fire shelters – Little Venus Fire, Wyoming, 2006. Photo: Ryan Jordan

In 1959, the U.S. Forest Service, Missoula (Mont.) Equipment and Development Center began development work to design an emergency fire shelter for wildland firefighters. The first documented use of a fire crew using fire shelters for protection from a fire was in 1964 in Southern California, thirty-six lives were saved by the experimental fire shelters.

Credits: Wildfire Magazine

Credits: Wildfire Magazine

In 1967 fire shelters were mass produced for firefighters to carry when it was deemed necessary. The early version of the fire shelter was aluminum foil laminated to fiberglass fabric with a Kraft paper liner designed into an A-frame structure.

During the 1970s, the paper liner was eliminated in the design. Policy was changed in 1977 to require all US federal firefighters to carry fire shelters while working fires. Minor changes were made to the design during the 1980s and 1990s. From 1964 into the 2000s, it is estimated the fire shelter saved 300 lives, and prevented serious burn injury to another 300 firefighters; however, 20 firefighters died in fire shelters during that sametime period.

In 2000, Forest Service Fire Management officials directed the now named Missoula Technology and Development Center (MTDC) to pursue development of a more protective fire shelter. Many new materials and shelter designs were considered and tested. Interagency Fire Directors selected the New Generation Fire Shelter in 2002. This new shelter shows marked improvement in protection vs. the old-style shelter, but it is not able to provide sufficient protection in the most extreme fire conditions.The shelter is constructed into a rounded shape and is made of two layers of laminated material. The outer layer is made of woven silica laminated to aluminum foil, while the inner layer is made of woven fiberglass material laminated to aluminum foil.

There have been 159 new shelters deployed, saving 25 lives and preventing 102 firefighter burn injuries; however, 21 lives have also been lost. Nineteen of those lives were of the Granite Mountain Hotshot Crew in an incident near Yarnell, AZ on June 30, 2013.

The Fire Shelter Project Review was initiated in 2014. The project is pursuing advances in materials that may offer increased protection by slowing the transfer of heat through the shelter layers. Historically, many high-temperature resistive materials are relatively heavy, bulky, fragile and/or toxic. These are all attributes that are not suitable for fire shelters. A few entities are submitting promising materials for testing, one of those is the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) Langley Research Center (LaRC) located in Hampton, Virginia.

For the past decade, NASA LaRC has been conducting materials development of flexible high temperature insulations for use on inflatable heat shields. Projects such as the Hypersonic Inflatable Aerodynamic Decelerator (HIAD) are designing these novel inflatables for the delivery of large payloads to Mars. The use of a large heat shield made of conventional rigid materials, like the one used on the Apollo capsule, is impractical for this type of application. By creating an inflatable structure, heat shields 20 feet in diameter, or larger, can be packed down to less than 20% of their original diameter, allowing them to fit into launch vehicles of a practical size.

Highly efficient, flexible, durable, thin, and lightweight insulations are required to protect these inflatable structures from the enormous heat of re-entry, and there are several similarities between NASA’s flexible heat shields and the fire shelter. After learning of the tragedy at Yarnell Hill, NASA LaRC researchers reached out to MTDC to offer their expertise and assistance in the development of new materials and shelter designs for the Fire Shelter Project Review, with the goal of providing a safer shelter for future fire fighters.

The NASA fire shelter development effort became known as Convective Heating Improvement for Emergency Fire Shelters (CHIEFS), and was tasked with improving the fire shelter’s resistance to direct flame exposure. The CHIEFS team quickly realized that flexible heat shield materials used for atmospheric re-entry vehicles could not be directly applied to the fire shelter. Flexible heat shields are designed to withstand more than 10 times the thermal load of a typical forest fire and consequently materials are too robust to be appropriate for the tight mass and volume constraints of the fire shelter. However, the experience amassed during the development of flexible heat shields has proven advantageous to CHIEFS research.

An example of a material layup used in CHIEFS fire shelter tests. Photo: NASA.

An example of a material layup used in CHIEFS fire shelter tests. Photo: NASA.

CHIEFS began work by developing a small scale convective heating test apparatus based on existing test standards used by the U.S. Forest Service, which employs a propane flame to rapidly screen various material samples. To date, CHIEFS has used this small-scale apparatus to test the thermal performance of more than 300 unique material layups – combinations of multiple individual layers – and in doing so has evaluated more than 70 individual materials.

The individual material layers in a layup can be selected to target the suppression of various modes of heat transfer; the order of these layers is also important. By parametrically varying the composition and ordering of these layups, candidate fire shelter concepts can be optimized to provide maximum thermal protection while maintaining acceptable levels of mass, volume, durability, toxicity, and cost.

Once past the initial screening, promising candidate materials are manufactured into full-scale fire shelters for further testing. During the summer of 2015, the first round of CHIEFS full-scale shelters – along with shelters submitted to MTDC by other vendors – were evaluated in both controlled wildfires in Canada as well as in a series of controlled laboratory fire enclosure tests. All CHIEFS shelters performed well thermally, and the tests also provided many “real world” lessons, not realized in the earlier small-scale development, that are now being implemented into a second round of CHIEFS shelters.

CHIEFS-Shelters-Tested-in-Controlled-Wildfire

Flames engulfing test shelters in controlled wildfire – NW Territories, Canada, 2015 Photo: U.S. Forest Service.

Currently, CHIEFS is completing fabrication of their next round of full-scale fire shelters. These shelters will undergo preliminary evaluations, and then promising candidate layups will be evaluated in another round of full-scale shelter testing. This testing will take place along with candidates from other vendors in spring, 2016, at the MTDC. The goal is to have shelters with a significant increase in performance with minimal increase in weight and bulk that then can go forward to field testing. The CHIEFS team has thoroughly enjoyed their collaborative effort with MTDC, and is excited to continue development of more efficient fire shelters and help make our nation’s wildland firefighters safer on the ground.

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*Source: WildFireMagazine.org

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NASA Is Testing Next-Generation Fire Shelters at a Burn Site In Northern Canada

NASA-fire-shelter-systemIn the summer of 2013, 19 firefighters died fighting a wildfire in Yarnell Hill, Arizona, their emergency fire protection shelters unable to withstand the extreme 2,000℉ heat. In the aftermath of the tragedy, two NASA employees wondered if their work on advanced thermal materials could have helped.

This January, NASA reached an agreement with the US Department of Agriculture’s Forest Service to test prototype fire shelters made from the space agency’s next-generation thermal protection systems (TPM) materials—intended, initially, to protect future spacecraft upon re-entry (in fact, a first generation of the material has already been tested on the agency’s third Inflatable Reentry Vehicle Experiment vehicle, IRVE-3).

Not unlike a spacecraft tearing through the atmosphere, NASA’s hope is that its material will be able to weather a wildfire’s blazing heat—saving lives in the process—unlike any emergency shelter before.

These prototype shelters were tested for the first time in late June, when NASA’s Langley Research Center, University of Alberta adjunct professor :Mark Ackerman, and the US Department of Agriculture’s Forest Service travelled to Fort Providence in Canada’s Northwest territories to conduct series of controlled outdoor burns.

Though the results thus far are preliminary, “it does appear that there is a potential solution here that would improve the fire protection of these shelters for the next generation,” said Anthony Calomino, NASA lead on flexible TPS development.

 
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Source*: Motherboard.Vice.com

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NASA Technology May Help Protect Wildland Firefighters

CHIEFS Material

NASA’s Langley Research Center in Hampton, Virginia, is working with the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Forest Service to see if flexible thermal protection system technology being developed for space entry vehicles could also work to protect firefighters caught in a raging forest fire.
Credits: NASA

NASA research into flexible, high-temperature space materials may some day improve personal fire shelter systems and help wildland firefighters better survive dangerous wildfires.

NASA’s Langley Research Center in Hampton, Virginia, is working with the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Forest Service to see if flexible thermal protection system technology being developed for space entry vehicles could also work to protect firefighters caught in a raging forest fire.

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*Source: NASA.gov

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