Firefighters risk their lives every time they are called to put out a fire. Just like the Navy has their Seal team, firefighters have the Hot Shots. The Hot Shots are an elite group of firefighters who often hike for miles into the wilderness and build lines of protection between people and fires. Sometimes they are forced to stay in the field for days at a time. A new portable shelter is being used to help save their lives in extreme fire situations.
There are hundreds of Hot Shot crews across the country. One crew from Arizona, the Granite Mountain Hot Shots, lost 19 of its 20 members recently while battling a wildfire sparked by lightning. This particular crew undergoes 80 hours of training each year and must stay in peak physical condition. Even with the best training, fires can still be deadly. Emergency portable shelters are the last line of defense for firefighters battling wildfires. These cocoon-like shelters take only seconds to deploy and completely surround the firefighter.
Once deployed, the portable shelter allows firefighters trapped in a fire to breathe their own air. The fire shelter is designed to reflect heat and allow the firefighter to breathe clean air. However, if temperatures reach 500 degrees, the glue that bonds the layers begins to break down. When using the portable shelter, it will still be hot, you won’t be able to breathe normally, but it allows the firefighter to stay alive.
The emergency shelter is definitely a last resort. Many of the Hot Shots crews are required to carry them with them on missions. If a firefighter must deploy the shelter, something has gone wrong. However, many trapped firefighters have survived because of the shelters, staying inside them anywhere between five and 90 minutes. In the case of the Granite Mountain Hot Shots, experts say the intensity of the Arizona fires would have been too much for even the emergency shelters to have saved their lives.