Forest Service Team Working To Improve Emergency Fire Shelters

Published: Monday, July 3, 2017 - 3:40pm
Updated: Monday, July 3, 2017 - 3:49pm

On Friday, the fourth anniversary of the Yarnell Fire passed. You’ll remember that in 2013, the nation — especially Arizonans — were shocked and saddened by the deaths of 19 members of the Granite Mountain Hotshots in a wildfire. 

The firefighters were caught in the fast-moving fire. They deployed their fire-proof emergency shelters, but that did not save their lives. What went wrong?

It was a question that haunted NASA scientist Mary Beth Wusk, who develops heat-shielding materials for spacecrafts as they re-enter Earth’s atmosphere. If rocket scientists can keep astronauts safe at 3,000-degrees Fahrenheit, why couldn’t they keep firefighters safe back on terra firma?

Now, she works with the Forest Service's National Technology and Development Center, or T&D team, on a project called CHIEFS: Convective Heating for Improvement for Emergency Fire Shelters.

I spoke with Wusk, as well as CHIEFS team lead Josh Fody, to talk about this potentially life-saving technology.

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